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Power and Policy in the USSR 
Common Sense about Russia 
Courage of Genius: The Pasternak Affair 
Russia after Khrushchev 
The Great Terror 
The Nation Killers 
Where Marx Went Wrong 
V L Lenin 

Kolyma: The Arctic Death Camps 
Present Danger: Towards a Foreign Policy 
We and They: Civic and Despotic Cultures 
What to Do When the Russians Come (with Jon Manchip White) 
Inside Stalins Secret Police: NKVD Politics 1936—39 
The Harvest of Sorrow 
Stalin and the Kirov Murder 
Tyrants and Typewriters 
The Great Terror: A Reassessment 
Stalin: Breaker of Nations 



Between Mars and Venus 
Arias from a Love Opera 
Coming Across 

New and Collected Poems 
Demons Dont 


Aleksandr Solzhenitsyns 
Prussian Nights 


A World of Difference 
The Egyptologists 
(with Kingsley Amis) 

The Abomination of Moab 


on a 




Robert Conquest 

W. W. Norton & Company 
New York ♦ London 

Copyright © 2000 by Robert Conquest 

All rights reserved 

Printed in the United States of America 
First Edition 

For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to Permissions, 
W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110 

This book is composed in Centaur 
Desktop composition by Tom Ernst 
Manufacturing by Quebecor Printing, Fairfield, Inc. 
Book design by BTDnyc 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication-Data 
Conquest, Robert. 

Reflections on a ravaged century / by Robert Conquest. 

p. cm. 

Includes bibliographical references and index. 

ISBN 0-393-04818-7 

I. History, Modern—20th Century. I. Title. 

D42I.C595 1999 

909.08—dc21 99-31980 


W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 500 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10110 

W. W. Norton & Company Ltd., 10 Coptic Street, London WCIA IPU 







Preface ix 

Introduction xi 



Chapter I: History’s Battleground 3 

Chapter II: The Culture of Sanity 20 

Chapter III: The Marxist Irruption: How and Why 34 

Chapter IV: The Nation: Hope and Hysteria 

(Nationality, Nationalism, Fascism, National Socialism) 57 

Chapter V: Totalitarian Party—Totalitarian State 73 

Chapter VI: Into the Soviet Morass 85 

Chapter VII: The Great Error: 

Soviet Myths and Western Minds 115 

Chapter VIII: Launching the Cold War 150 

Chapter IX: Missiles and Mind-sets: 

The Cold War Continues 166 




Chapter X: Scar Tissue: A Note on Post-Soviet Russia 187 

Chapter XI: In a Wayward West 196 

Chapter XII: “The Answer Is Education” 215 

Chapter XIII: Halfway to One World: 

Imperialism, Anti-imperialism 240 

Chapter XIV: The “Europe” Idea 253 

Chapter XV: A More Fruitful Unity 

(The Oceanic Perspective) % 267 

Afterword 289 

Select Bibliography 299 

Index 305 



T his book appears as the world lumberingly and indecisively 
turns back from the abysses which we were lucky to escape, and 
which still yawn. Its theme is that the main responsibility for 
the century's disasters lies not so much in the problems as in the solu¬ 
tions, not in impersonal forces but in human beings, thinking certain 
thoughts and as a result performing certain actions. 

Acknowledgments are due to the Hoover Institution on War, 
Revolution and Peace, Stanford University; also to the United States 
Institute of Peace and the Institute of Contemporary Studies. Much 
gratitude goes to my editor Robert Weil, also to Grant McIntyre. And I 
am greatly indebted to Anatol Shmelev for indefatigable and invaluable 
research and other assistance; to Amy Desai, even more than usual, for 
her unmatched standard of secretarial work, in particularly difficult cir¬ 
cumstances; and, as ever, to my wife. 

Some of the material first appeared in the New York Review of Books, the 
Times Literary Supplement, the Daily Telegraph, the New Criterion, hvestiya, We 
and They (1980) and my 1993 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities. 

Stanford 1999 





I n a story by the science fiction writer Hal Clement, when an inter¬ 
stellar fugitive s miscalculation has led to his death, the comment is 
made, “Live and learn, they say . . . but the difficulty seems to lie 
in living while you learn" Over this century the human race has survived 
experiences that, to put it mildly, should have been instructive. Scores of 
millions have been slaughtered, and it cannot be said that the avoidance 
of the even worse catastrophe of nuclear war was foreordained. Have 
the lessons been learned? And if so, to what extent? 


Ideas that claimed to transcend all problems, but were defective or delu¬ 
sive, devastated minds, and movements, and whole countries, and looked 
like plausible contenders for world supremacy. In fact, humanity has 
been savaged and trampled by rogue ideologies. 

The central aim of this book is therefore an investigation, and a 
demonstration, of how and why these disastrous mental distortions 
arose, how and why they came to motivate movements, parties and 
states. We trace their incubation, their nature and their results; and con¬ 
clude with suggestions for their future prevention. 

Seventy years ago W. B. Yeats famously wrote that, then, 

The best lack all conviction } while the worst 
Are full of passionate intensity. 

This has been true in the sense that obsessive attachment to these 
ideas has been a powerful characteristic of our century. But lack of 


obsessive “conviction” has not been a decisive disadvantage. I think of 
Richard Hillary, the Battle of Britain pilot eventually killed in the war, 
who wrote in his The Last Enemy of how one of his motives was to show 
that skeptics like himself could take on—and defeat—“the dogma-fed 
youth of the Luftwaffe.” 

And though the struggle with the forces of “dogma” has been long 
and hard, the open society has so far prevailed; there is no reason, in 
principle, why it should not do so in the future if the lessons have been 
truly learned, and when learned, not forgotten. 

3 . 

In dealing with such themes, this book seeks to avoid what Orwell 
called “the lure of the profound.” Though in a sense philosophical, it is 
not formal political philosophy./Though much research has, of course, 
gone into it, it is primarily a product not so much of “research” as of 
knowledge, judgment, thought and experience. 

So if I support certain views and reject others, it is less from preju¬ 
dice than from postjudice. 

And then, the mind is a venue of thought, but also of feeling, not 
always rationally describable. Late in 1997 the Paris Le Monde interviewed 
me by phone. I was asked did I find the Holocaust “worse” than the 
Stalinist crimes. I answered yes, I did, but when the interviewer asked 
why, I could only answer honestly with “I feel so.” Not a final judgment, 
let alone to suggest that the Holocaust was much “worse” than the 
Stalinist terrors, or to decry the view of the great Jewish Soviet writer 
Vasily Grossman, whose own mother was killed by the Nazis, that there 
is almost nothing to choose between the two systems. Still, this primary 
“feeling,” based indeed on knowledge, has a validity of its own. I would 
argue, too, that, whatever view one takes, without feeling the Holocaust 
one cannot feel, or understand, Stalinism. The crux is nevertheless that 
such feelings are only acceptable when based on, or conjoined with, 
sound knowledge and careful thought. And, on the other side of our 
concern, our problems have been due not to fallacious ideas in the 
abstract but to the extreme, uncontrolled, emotional charge they carry. 


Much of the knowledge and thought deployed here comes from a wide 
range of observers and thinkers, and these are given full credit. I have 

Introduction ♦ 


quoted them when, as Montaigne wrote, they do better “what I cannot 
so well express”; or when their authority gives weight to an argument 
(or, on the other hand, when a passage is a striking illustration of what I 
conceive to be an absurdity). 

Nor, over most of what follows, have I sought to “prove” this or that 
thesis by an accumulation of evidence. The instances given, sometimes 
from personal experience, are intended as illustrations or clarifications. 

On a subsidiary point, I have not used references except where this 
appears to be unavoidable, or where the original may be hard to find. 
This is not because of any hostility to notes, as such: fifty and more 
pages of these are to be found in other books of mine.* I trust that few 
will mind their absence here. 

The present book is not a holy text, and those persuaded by its main 
thrust will not necessarily agree with every point. Some of the opinions 
advanced will be contested in good faith and with respectable argu¬ 
ment—though it would be naive to expect this of every critic. G. K. 
Chesterton once complained that a reviewer of his The Man Who Was 
Thursday had failed to read the books subtitle, A Dream. One of the pres¬ 
ent writers works was reviewed some years ago by a critic who failed not 
quite so ostentatiously, having only omitted to read the second para¬ 
graph of the short preface acknowledging my academic sponsors. Many 
writers must have had similar experiences. 

It may be rather more cogently argued that my account of the culture 
of the rule of law and political liberty does not give proportionate 
space to all the blemishes, the incompetence, the fallings off from its 
promise. My concern was in no way to deny these, but to present the 
strengths and virtues more central to that culture which, to the extent 
that they have deteriorated, or been undermined, are yet viable and 
capable of revival; and that it is in any case our, and the worlds, only 
resource in the struggle with truly homicidal obsessions. 

It is impossible to have any understanding of the present without some 
perspective on humanity's past, and on its unpredictable but conceivable 
futures. The present writer can plead that he is a long-standing member of 
the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies and has written on vari¬ 
ous ancient, medieval and nineteenth-century themes; and at the same time 

*See The Great Terror: A Reassessment (New York: Oxford University Press; London: Century 
Hutchinson, 1990), pp. 491—544; The Harvest of Sorrow (same publishers, 1986), pp. 348—93. 


is a Fellow—from pre-Sputnik days—of: the British Interplanetary Society 
and author of a science fiction novel and stories in Analog and Galaxy. 
Indeed, I have suggested elsewhere that it is more helpful to think of con¬ 
ceptions hostile to our own not as good or bad but as alien. Imagination is 
certainly required in considering those temporally or culturallv remote 
from us. It was imaginative novelists like Orwell and Koestler, rather than 
Professors Webb or Laski, who understood and transmitted the realities of 
Stalinism. This is no more than to claim a certain breadth of outlook, per¬ 
haps a necessary, though not itself an adequate, qualification for writing on 
some of the key questions of this century 7 . 


The books general theme, then, is that any concept given anything like 
absolute status becomes not a guide to action but an abstraction whose 
imposition on reality reveals an incompatibility, as engineers say of 
parts that do not fit, and that can only be made to fit by main force, and 
even then ineffectively or ruinously. 

Nor, as we describe such phenomena in action, is this to examine a 
dead past, but rather a still living past, where we can trace the primitive 
but still powerful notion that any political or other objective can be 
achieved by mere force. 

The world still faces a legacy of dangers fueled by the fatal ideas to 
which this attitude gives rise. Far from history having come to an end 
with global acceptance of market economies and pluralist politics, we 
face a long and dangerous struggle to bring a highly refractory planet 
into a peaceable, let alone democratic, condition. The technology of 
power developed over the past century is still at the disposal of a variety 
of dangerous rulers. The overwhelmingly destructive weaponry now 
available remains an appalling threat. Archaic hatreds, ideologically 
modernized and totalitarianized, flourish. 

We should not take a very short view of our problems, nor should we 
take a very long view. For we can only be reasonably clear about possibili¬ 
ties over a decade or two at most. To fail to face comparatively urgent dan¬ 
ger, as generally speaking the West long failed to face the threat of Nazism, 
can lead to catastrophe. But we should also avoid the temptation of poli¬ 
cies supposed to solve all problems and determine the whole future, as has 
been seen with the disasters of the despotic-utopian regimes. 

The survival of civilization in the twentieth century was a near thing. 

Introduction ♦ 


And the perils were greatly exacerbated by unreal thinking within the 
democratic culture itself. Kierkegaard once said that the most dangerous 
mental faults are laziness and impatience. Laziness of mind meant 
unwillingness to face unfamiliar, complex and refractory realities. 
Impatience led to infatuation with supposedly all-explanatory theories 
in lieu of thought and judgment. 

Democratic muddleheadedness, or a resurgence of fanaticism, could 
destroy the present opportunity. 

And part of the reason the totalitarian ideologies achieved such a 
measure of success was that they were misunderstood by too many in the 
democratic countries. We have to examine the ways in which these, or 
variants, have to one degree or another, in one guise or another, affected 
our intellectual atmosphere—in part because of misconceptions based 
on what Dostoevsky called “being in bondage to advanced ideas.” There 
are other relevant Western weaknesses we also have to consider. 

Above all, we must insist, as against the utopian concepts, that a tol¬ 
erable order of things is one of a proper balance between the social and 
the individual: that a human being is neither an ant nor a shark. 

On such issues, this book is less a rebuke than a warning, and in most 
cases it should be no more resented than a sleepwalker should resent 
being stopped walking off a cliff or than a child should resent being 
given nasty medicine. But of course, on the record, it would be vain to 
be too sanguine about this. 


We face threats, but also opportunities. A ship aims both to avoid rocks 
and to keep heading towards its destination. In such a context, this book 
amounts to an overview, an attempt to present in a coherent way the 
crucial causes of past disaster, and so of the problems still facing us in 
our hopes for a reasonably peaceful and consensual world. 





History’s Battleground 


T he huge catastrophes of our era have been inflicted by human 
beings driven by certain thoughts. And so history’s essential 
questions must be: 

How do we account for what has been called the “ideological frenzy” 
of the twentieth century? How did these mental aberrations gain a pur¬ 
chase? What was the sort and condition of people affected? Who were 
the Typhoid Marys who spread the infection? 

We need to develop the history and the nature of the various 
destructive ideologies in action. We need to consider the history and 
traditions of the culture that stood in opposition to them. 

But before we turn to these broader themes, we need to examine the 
history and background of the mental arena in which the battle of ideas 
was fought. 

2 . 

Both scarcely formulated fanaticisms and closed systems of ideas are, of 
course, to be found throughout the past. These historical phenomena 
are full of lessons for our time (indeed ignorance of history is one of 
the most negative attributes of modern man). The basic characteristic 
and attraction was and is the archaic idea that utopia can be constructed 
on earth; the offer of a millenarian solution to all human problems. 
This central trend has been, at least in vocabulary, modernized. The 
aspirations which in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries spoke in the 
dialect of Theology, in the eighteenth century took up that of Reason, 
and in the nineteenth century that of Science. 

With the two last, we get the delusion that our knowledge of human 


society is so complete that we have the power to reinvent it according to 
the formulae so obtained, that human affairs are in principle fully 
understandable and fully manipulable: a fetishism of whatever happens, 
or happened, to be the supposed current state of knowledge about 
social, economic, psychological and other phenomena. 

The origin of the modern eras ideologies lay in John Lockes deriva¬ 
tion of scholastic generalities from traditional English understandings 
of liberty, thus excessively rationalizing and at the same time limiting, 
or in a sense desiccating, the more complex reality. 

At any rate, this, and the success of the physical and other sciences in 
England in the seventeenth century, gave the French intelligentsia the idea 
that everything could now be determined by Reason—in whose name 
the Revolution was made—with the “Romantic” input from Rousseau as 
part of the meld. The often argued “contradiction” between them may 
appear valid in a formal way, but in practice they went well together, the 
perfection sought being both intellectual and emotional. This unfortu¬ 
nate combination persisted. The “Ideas” in this sense were in any case 
mental, but not primarily intellectual, phenomena. Insofar as one can 
make the distinction, they seem, rather, to have been the verbalizations of 
largely emotional content. 

As Alexander Yakovlev, the former Politburo member who became a 
stout proponent of democracy, noted in a speech on the two hundredth 
anniversary of the French Revolution, “The morbid faith in the possi¬ 
bility 7 of forcing through social and historical development, and the ide¬ 
alisation of violence, traces back to the very sources of the European 
revolutionary tradition.” 

Marx himself said that he combined German philosophical, English 
economic and French political ideas. And it is indeed in France that we 
first find Revolution in the sense of the complete destruction of the 
existing order, and its replacement by abstract concepts—these latter 
formulated by, and dictatorially enforced by, theorists with no experi¬ 
ence of real politics. The Revolution Idea then spread over half the 

It is sometimes argued that the social strains on the fabric of human 
culture, of human minds, since the Industrial Revolution have been so 
intense that all this has been a natural “objective” result. Since the main 
centers of that revolution—in particular Britain and the United 
States—escaped the frenzy, this cannot stand up. 

History’s Battleground 


Not that the advocates of free-market industrialization were exempt 
from a different, and less total, form of excess ideation: an extreme anti- 
regulatory economic theory was widely held and inflicted. In the mid¬ 
nineteenth century in Britain, it was a loose coalition of traditionalists 
and social reformers who brought in the legislation which curbed the 
excesses of the first decades of the Industrial Revolution (though the 
dramatic fall in the death rate was also due to such works as the vast 
new London sewage system). 


Revolutionaries, and some reformers, spoke and still speak of “radical” 
change. It is worth remembering that such change is not necessarily 
greater than that associated with the gradualist approach. Cutting the 
taproot is in one sense a lesser operation than lopping off a number of 
dead branches. To pursue the metaphor further, it is much easier to kill 
a tree, and requires considerably less knowledge of dendrology, than to 
prune it effectively. The English Revolution of 1688 and the American 
Revolution in 1776, both of them undertaken in protection of the legal 
and civic order, had no connotation of total and utopian change— 
though Marxists and others have sometimes implied the opposite. 

As to the Jacobin claim to absolute democracy (with Marat as l’Ami 
du Peuple!), Sunil Khilnani writes of its legacy in his Arguing Revolution: 

But the Revolution—and the left it created—proved to be the . . . worst 
enemy of these values. Democracy in its constitutional representative 
form—the only form in which inhabitants of the modern political world 
are ever likely to be durably acquainted with it—remained in quite funda¬ 
mental respects unpracticed, untheorised and unloved in France. To the 
intellectual left, constitutional representative democracy, “bourgeois” or 
“formal” democracy was a contemptible and mystifying illusion. 

And, he adds, “only beginning in the late 1970s did it gradually come 
to be accepted in France] as a political form in its own right, and not 
merely an illicit simulation of 'true,’ direct or revolutionary democracy.” 

Edmund Burke, in a famous passage (written, moreover, before the 
worst excesses), pointed out that the French revolutionaries’ delusion 
that force could solve all problems was above all a “slothful” attempt to 
ignore the complexity of reality. 


A century and a half later Orwell similarly remarked on the “mental 
coarseness” of revolutionaries, who “imagine that everything can be put 
right by altering the shape of society” He might have added that there is 
something infantile or childish in the whole revolutionary-despotic 
approach, which is, in effect, based on the simpleminded attitude “If I 
were King . . . that it only needs well-intentioned people in power to 
solve everything by mere decree. Remy de Gourmont calls the excesses of 
the French Revolution “nothing but the anger of a disappointed child." 

I find that high school students, imbued with or attracted to it, can 
easily follow the central objection (more than can be said for some at 
higher, or further, levels of education): How is equality 7 to be attained? 
Answer: By being enforced. Who is to do the enforcing, and how can 
the enforcer remain “equal” to the rest? . . . And to assume the best of 
motives even for the initial commitment to an Idea is to be charitable: 
for in most humans a component of hatred for the designated oppres¬ 
sor has usually been quite as motivating as sympathy for the oppressed. 
But many, the world over, thought and still think in terms of social rev¬ 
olution, of a judgment against the rich and powerful which will be fol¬ 
lowed by “liberation”—another slippery general term. 

“Revolution” has long been a powerful mantra. In her memoirs, Hope 
against Hope , Nadezhda Mandelshtam, the widow of the great poet mur¬ 
dered by the Stalinists, takes the view that a generation of Russian 
intellectuals was ruined by the word, which none of them could give 
up, and which prevented them from opposing the dictatorship. For 
what the Bolsheviks had effected was undoubtedly a “revolution,” and 
not to be resisted. 

4 . 

There are men who are revolutionaries by temperament, to whom in fact 
bloodshed is natural. Pushkin had understood the dangers: “Those in our 
midst who plan impossible revolutions are either young men who do not 
know our people, or cruel-hearted men who place a low value on their own 
necks, and an even lower value on the necks of others.” There were those 
who came to it entrapped by the Idea, and prepared to destroy “enemies of 
the people.” Even intellectuals who are not strictly speaking revolutionaries, 
but who claim to speak in the interests of “humanity” as a whole, have 
taken sinister stands. For example, Bertrand Russell is quoted as accepting 
“that if it could be shown that humanity would live happily ever after if 

History’s Battleground ♦ y 

the Jews were exterminated, there could be no good reason not to proceed 
with their extermination” (Frederic Raphael, Prospect, May 1996), 

The revolutionary believed it to be in the nature of things that dicta¬ 
torship and terror are needed if the good of humanity is to be served, 
just as the Aztec priests believed themselves to be entirely justified in 
ripping the hearts out of thousands of victims, since had they not done 
so, the sun would have gone out, a far worse catastrophe for mankind. 
In either case, the means are acceptable, being inevitable—that is, if the 
theory is correct. . . . 

Like all paranoiacs, revolutionists legitimized hatred, which they prac¬ 
ticed effectively. They claimed to legitimize it in the interests of humanity: 
in this they were deceived. Or, to put it another way, the primitive search 
for certainty, of mental submission to revelation, of which we have spoken 
is melded with the primitive submergence of the individual mind into a 
supposed mass mind. Something of the sort may also be said of an 
addicts acceptance of not only terror but also lies—those two characteris¬ 
tics of the absolutist Idea, like Sin and Death in an earlier literature. And 
when it came to the Soviet Union there was what amounted to an accept¬ 
ance of the old Russian distinction between transcendent Truth (pravda) 
and mere factual truth (istinaj. It was Pushkin, again, who wrote sardonical¬ 
ly, “The lie that uplifts us is dearer to me than the mass of petty istinas” 

Another great Russian writer, Dostoevsky, points out, in The Possessed 
that “causes” are attractive for another reason, because they provide an 
excuse for behaving badly, giving “the right to dishonor,” which, as he 
puts it, is endlessly fascinating. One of the things that gave even 
Stalinism its prestige in the West, even (or especially) among those who 
recognized that its methods were immensely ruthless, was the abstract, 
utopian notion that there was a certain horrible grandeur in what was 
going on. Men of ideas, who had profoundly considered the laws of 
history, were creating a new society and taking upon themselves the 
guilt of the necessary merciless action. Such an attitude is to be seen 
even in the interrogators in Arthur Koestlers Darkness at Noon, and 
Koestler has recorded that a young Frenchman once wrote to tell him 
that he had become converted to Communism by that very book. 

As its lowest method of justification, the excuse was, in effect, that 
“you cant make borscht without cutting up beets”—to adapt a remark 
about omelettes attributed earlier to Robespierre. 

The point, surely, is to discourage the combination of a vague and 


self-congratulatory general goodwill towards humanity with an accept¬ 
ance of systems and, resulting from that, the (often gradual) acceptance 
of extreme inhumanity—and falsification—if done in the name of the 
supposedly humanitarian concepts. 

For as that great historian Norman Cohn has remarked (in his 
Warrant for Genocide): 

There exists a subterranean world, where pathological fantasies disguised 
as ideas are churned out by crooks and half-educated fanatics for the ben¬ 
efit of the ignorant and superstitious. There are times when that under¬ 
world emerges from the depths and suddenly fascinates, captures, and 
dominates multitudes of usually sane and responsible people. . . . And it 
occasionally happens that this subterranean world becomes a political 
power and changes the course of history. 

But the world can no longer afford the rise of revolutionary-ideo¬ 
logues, any more than it can afford nuclear war—in part because the 
takeover of states by ideolaters must lead to gross inhumanity, and may 
lead to nuclear confrontations. 

5 . 

What, then, is the mental material into which they insert their ideas, 
like certain wasps into certain grubs? 

Dostoevsky writes of a human type “whom any strong idea strikes all 
of a sudden and annihilates his will, sometimes forever.” The true Idea 
addict is usually something roughly describable as an “intellectual.” The 
British writer A. Alvarez has (and meaning it favorably) defined an 
intellectual as one who is “excited by ideas ” Ideas can indeed be excit¬ 
ing, but the use of the intellect might be thought to be primarily one of 
subjecting them to knowledge and judgment—especially on the record 
of our century. 

Intelligence alone is thus far from being a defense against the plague. 
Students, in particular, have traditionally been a reservoir of infection. 
The Nazis won the German students before they won the German 
state, and there are many similar examples. In much the same way, a 
leading scholar of Russian affairs (Ronald Hingley of Oxford) noted 
during the Soviet period that basic misapprehensions about it in the 
West were rare among truly serious scholars, and also among ordinary 

History’s Battleground ♦ 9 

people, being confined to those of fair intelligence. He commented, 
“For it is surely true, if not generally recognised, that real prowess in 
wrong-headedness, as in most other fields of human endeavour, presup¬ 
poses considerable education, character, sophistication, knowledge, and 
will to succeed.” 

Eric Hoffer suggests that those who become possessed by exciting 
Ideas and identification with causes are often “selfish people who were 
forced by innate shortcomings or external circumstances to lose faith in 
their own selves.” It might be argued that, whether through tempera¬ 
ment or accident, some who are simply bored with the quotidian turn to 
Ideas as stimuli. We are told of hostesses in Berlin in the early 1930s to 
whom National Socialism gave “meaning to their empty lives.” 

Boredom is indeed a pitiable condition. And the feeling of meaning¬ 
lessness, of accidie, can be devastating. Still, to compensate by abandon¬ 
ing reason for ideology is a desperate remedy. 

6 . 

Political opinion seems in fact to be largely a matter of temperament. 
This is implicitly admitted by Marx himself in that passage in the 
Communist Manifesto in which, having insisted that in general people act 
according to their class economic interest, he makes an exception for— 
Marxist intellectuals! “A portion of the bourgeoisie goes over to the pro¬ 
letariat, and, in particular, a portion of the bourgeois ideologists, who 
have raised themselves to the level of comprehending theoretically the 
historical movement as a whole.” As we know, most Marxist and 
Communist leaders have been of bourgeois origin. Marx is here admit¬ 
ting that their motivations are not those normally provided for by 
Marxism. What are they, then? Marx himself would have been the last to 
say that any of his followers were the intellectual superiors of Darwin or 
Clerk Maxwell; nor is it likely that a Communist in this century would 
have claimed that Molotov was the intellectual superior of Ivan Pavlov or 
Anton Chekhov, or Louis Aragon of Louis de Broglie or Albert Camus. 
But if not intellect or interest, we are left with temperament. 

Even the philosopher, William James remarks, is really much motivat¬ 
ed by temperament: 

Temperament is no conventionally recognised reason; so he argues imper¬ 
sonal reasons for his conclusions. Yet his temperament really gives him a 


stronger bias than any of his more strictly objective premises. . . . 

Wanting a universe that suits it, he believes any representation of the uni¬ 
verse that does suit it. 

Pavel Akselrod, one of the leaders of the Russian revolutionary 
Marxists in the struggle against Eduard Bernstein and “revisionism,” 
remarked (privately, to be sure) that “the whole thing is a matter of 
temperament,” adding that the real objection to peaceful revolution, 
whatever its advantages, is that it “would be exceedingly boring”—once 
again that dreadful prospect. Similarly, Simone de Beauvoir, in a reveal¬ 
ing passage in The Prime of Life , wrote that she and Sartre were “tempera¬ 
mentally opposed to the idea of reform.” 

Times of stress have produced both revolutionaries and mystics, 
Zealots and Christians. It would be hard to define precisely the psycho¬ 
logical differences between the types. And indeed, there is usually a 
good deal of movement from one view to the other; even in the United 
States, one notes some of the political activists of the sixties later 
becoming involved in strange religious quietisms. Such changes are 
explicable psychologically, but hardlv sociologically. 

For a useful, almost classical demonstration of the revolutionary 
mind-warp, the motivation behind acceptance of a totalitarian Idea, we 
turn to an interview given by the Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm on 
“The Late Show,” 24 October 1994 (see TLS, 28 October 1994). 
When Michael Ignatieff asked him to justify his long membership of 
the Communist Party, he replied: “You didrit have the option. You see, 
either there was going to be a future or there wasn't going to be a future 
and this was the only thing that offered an acceptable future.” 

Ignatieff then asked: “In 1934, millions of people are dying in the 
Soviet experiment. If you had known that, would it have made a differ¬ 
ence to you at that time? To your commitment? To being a Communist?” 

Hobsbawm answered: “This is a sort of academic question to which 
an answer is simply not possible. Erm ... I don’t actually know that it 
has any bearing on the history that I have written. If I were to give you a 
retrospective answer which is not the answer of a historian, I would have 
said, ‘Probably not.’” 

Ignatieff asked: “Why?” 

Hobsbawm explained: “Because in a period in which, as you might 
say, mass murder and mass suffering are absolutely universal, the chance 

History’s Battleground ♦ 11 

of a new world being born in great suffering would still have been worth 
backing. Now the point is, looking back as an historian, I would say that 
the sacrifices made by the Russian people were probably only marginally 
worthwhile. The sacrifices were enormous, they were excessive by almost 
any standard and excessively great. But I'm looking back at it now and 
I'm saying that because it turns out that the Soviet Union was not the 
beginning of the world revolution. Had it been, I'm not sure.'' 

Ignatieff then said: “What that comes down to is saying that had the 
radiant tomorrow actually been created, the loss of fifteen, twenty mil¬ 
lion people might have been justified?" 

Hobsbawm immediately said: “Yes." 

It will be seen that, first, Hobsbawm accepted the Soviet project not 
merely on the emotional ground of “hope" but on the transcendental 
one of its being the “only" hope. Then, that he was justified because, 
although it turned out wrong, it might have turned out right (and it was 
not only a matter of deaths, but also of mass torture, falsification, slave 
labor). Finally, that he believes this style of chiliastic, absolutist 
approach to reality is valid in principle. 

It might be added that addiction to a historico-social analysis which 
admittedly proved defective could be taken to cast some doubt on the 
method, and hence the conclusions, of Hobsbawm's historical work— 
some of which, on the Bolsheviks, we shall consider in its context in a 
later chapter. 

7 . 

Again, cultures—an inadequate word—have doubtless produced, or at 
least selected, personalities with overall results different from those of 
other cultures. It is not easy to get into another man's skin, let alone that 
of another culture. In seventeenth-century France the great Conde once 
remarked to the Cardinal de Retz that the reason why historians got 
things wrong was that “Ces coquins nous font parler et agir comme ils auroientfait 
eux-tnetnes a notre place ” He noted, in fact, that intellectuals of his own cul¬ 
ture would not make, or at any rate had not made, the effort adequately. 

It is not as if Conde himself was an intellectually muscle-bound thug 
of a professional soldier. Those who frequented his chateau when he was 
in disgrace—Moliere, Racine, Boileau, La Fontaine, Bossuet—make 
almost a roll call of the genius of the Grande Epoque. But if academics 
fail to understand the temperaments of the generals of their own culture, 


they are all the more unlikely to grasp the temperaments producing and 
produced by other traditions. When it comes to alien cultures, the 
immodesty of some anthropologists and social historians, who believe 
that they have got into the essence of a society; is a constant trap. 

Louis MacNeice, the poet, who was also a Professor of Greek and 
deeply versed in ancient Athens, could nevertheless write: 

And how one can imagine oneself among them 

I do not know. 

It was all so unimaginably different, 

And all so long ago. 

And this is Athens! Incomparably closer to us, in many ways, than 
most of the other ancient cultures and many modern ones. 

And yet the effort must be made. And when it comes to modern 
alien cultures, no understanding, and so no policy, is worth anything 
unless academics, statesmen and all others concerned make that effort, 
to the degree that unreal assumptions are driven even from their almost 
unconscious first thoughts on affairs. After that they need, it may be 
suggested, to master the idea that these deep-set historical forces of 
motivation are not merely very strange to us but cannot easily be 
changed by argument or manipulation. 

The true criticism of Neville Chamberlain is that he could not really 
imagine a man like Hitler or a party like the Nazis. “Hes a good fellow 
and twill all be well,” whatever may be said of it as theology, is a 
parochial and limited attitude when it comes to foreign politics. It is not 
only on the left—and, of course, many on the left are exempt—that one 
finds this inability to grasp the totalist mentality imaginatively. The 
notion that people who raised the alarm about Hitler in the 1930s were 
being immoderate and unreasonable was found in the Times and at All 
Souls, in all the blinkered and complacent crannies of the Establishment. 
The concept of a quite different set of motivations, based on a different 
political psychology, was absent. 

We are still faced with the absolutely crucial problem of making the 
intellectual and imaginative effort not to project our ideas of common 
sense or natural motivation onto the products of totally different cul¬ 
tures. The central point is less that people misunderstand other people, 
or that cultures misunderstand other cultures, than that they have no 

History’s Battleground ♦ /j 

notion that this may be the case. They assume that the light of- their 
own parochial common sense is enough. And they frame policies based 
on illusions. Yet how profound is this difference between political psy¬ 
chologies and between the motivations of different political traditions, 
and how deep-set and how persistent these attitudes are! 

8 . 

On the confused and complicated mental battlefield where all these 
issues are being fought out, we must now turn to examine our own 
record and prospects. What are the resources available to us? What are 
our strategic and moral advantages? What are our weaknesses and how 
(and to what extent) have they been overcome? 

To repudiate or at least deplore Ideas is not to favor the shortsight¬ 
edness, the narrow establishmentarian or itnmobiliste attitudes which are 
almost as common now as thev have been over recent centuries. 

The “Western'" culture has always implied the absence of absolutes, 
disbelief in perfect political wisdom, in readily predictable futures. But 
the avoidance of the extreme, ideologized way of thinking does not in 
itself save the political entity concerned from a milder, but still poten¬ 
tially dangerous, form of the affliction. And these less malignant vari¬ 
eties have to some extent taken hold—with uncritical devotion to 
various quick-fix solutions by humans and their states to the problems 
facing them. As in medical usage we speak of “-itis” in a real ailment 
and “-osis” in merely a morbid condition, we might speak of “ideitis” 
in the totalitarian countries and “ideosis” in certain Western cases. 

To look at it from a different angle, we may consider if packages of 
lesser “ideas” are a unity based on reason or a temperamental one. None 
other than Hobsbawm once penetratingly noted the causes pursued by 
the typical progressive figure a hundred or more years ago: “natural phi¬ 
losophy, phrenology, free thought, spiritualism, temperance, unortho¬ 
dox medicine, social reform, and the transformation of the family” 
(New Statesman , 4 April 1970)—each supported with just as much righ¬ 
teousness and certainty as the partially different batch now so much 
heard of. The point is once again, clearly, that what comes out of the 
package is not intellectual coherence, or the pursuit of interests, but a 
cast of mind. There is no logical connection, no overriding ideological 
connection, between the views noted, but only the accidental one of 
novelty and unorthodoxy, and the temperamental one of the odium theo~ 


logician. (It is hard to exaggerate the element of sheer lunacy in some of 
the “progressive” thinkers who are still highly regarded. Fourier sincere¬ 
ly believed that under socialism the sea could be turned into lemonade.) 

Now, modern men, though they might not agree on every point, 
would certainly grant that some of the opinions in that earlier package 
were totally crackpot and that others were not. The difficulty is that one 
cannot yet distinguish easily between what may prove to be a possibly 
useful contribution to social or other progress and what will in a centu¬ 
ry be regarded with amusement as the strangest of aberrations. 

Obsessions can cover the whole of society, or can be concentrated on 
minor points—such as the theory that Bacon wrote Shakespeare, or 
even such lesser matters as the pseudo-Anastasias claim to be the Tsars 
daughter. Concerning the point on which their obsessions concentrate, 
believers are often very well informed, with a mass of detail not readily 
available to their critics, though in fact either distorted or meaningless. 

It would seem to follow (since political decisions are of more imme¬ 
diate consequence than literary ones) that certain temperaments are 
unfitted for action or advice in a pluralist order. But in most cases, no 
doubt, minds are not so rigidly set in their ways as to make them 
immune to experience and argument. The problem is in their breathing 
an atmosphere of thought containing at least a trace of noxious fumes. 
Indeed, in controversies of this sort, and more generally, one seems to 
see a certain degeneration. Except in admittedly extreme cases, it was 
usual even among those “committed” to certain opinions to preserve at 
least the appearance of rationality, balance, objectivity. Even this is 
often now abandoned. 

Even when full-scale ideologies have not possessed human minds, 
less complete but still dangerously obsessive ideas have thus distorted 
our societies. Certainty on matters in which our knowledge is inevitably 
imperfect is the enemy of good understanding and good policy. 

We must indeed distinguish between the aim or actuality of the total 
state, on the one hand, and what are no more than partial, and often 
hardly intentional, tendencies distorting normal states or systems of 
states. But even when totalist programs are not in question, the principle 
of state control and the actuality of bureaucratic power have become 
excessive even in the West—including excessive legislation, excessive reg¬ 
ulation, and excessive litigation, often for aims based more on convic¬ 
tion than on knowledge. Misleading general views that perfuse the 

History’s Battleground ♦ lj 

political class at any given time, whether in the West or elsewhere, are 
not for that reason sound, or durable. They gain momentum by involve¬ 
ment in state, or international, negotiations and administrations, until 
they appear unstoppable. But eventually, as often as not, they burn out. 

What has suffered in all these cases is a sense of balance, between the 
proper rights of the individual and the necessary rights of the state, 
between personal aims and mutual obligations, between the often con¬ 
flicting claims of liberty and of equity. 

9 . 

General ideas, general concepts, general principles, interpreted as 
absolutes rather than approximations, are mere kindling wood for a new 
conflagration. But of course we must use general ideas and general con¬ 
cepts. General words are necessary and natural—as long as those who 
use them understand that their generality is a convenience, bringing 
together certain phenomena for certain purposes, but not a monolith. 
We must keep a balance, and not allow these to get out of hand and 
take over. They must be our servants, and not our masters. In fact, as in 
all our arrangements, we must once again seek a balance. We must learn 
from experience, yet not believe we can see far into the future. We must 
take short views, but not too short. We must allow the state a role in 
social affairs, but not a dominance. We must grant the legitimate claims 
of nationality, but reject its extreme manifestations. This undogmatic 
type of approach has been among the essentials of the civic and plural¬ 
ist culture. 

There is no formula that can give us infallible answers to political, 
social, economic, ecological and other human problems. There is no 
simple concept which will answer such questions as how much the state 
can do (though we have learned that to give it too much power is disas¬ 
trous), or how far market forces can give positive results (though we 
have learned that their abolition is disastrous). Nor is there a simple 
guide to the conduct of foreign policy. 

What does not need to be done needs not to be done—though, of 
course, there are things that need to be done, and situations so dangerous 
that quick and major action is required. But it is not enough to show that 
a situation is bad; it is also necessary to be reasonably certain that the 
problem has been properly described, fairly certain that the proposed rem¬ 
edy will improve it, and virtually certain that it will not make it worse. 


This requires thought, common sense, careful judgment, and above all no 
untested, or ill-tested, all-purpose solutions. All that sounds obvious and 
indisputable. It has not been the usual practice in the twentieth century. 

In part this is because, as we have suggested, many cannot admit that 
the condition of humankind in all its vast complexity is not to be 
understood by formula, and that in any but the short run its develop¬ 
ments cannot be predicted by theory, or otherwise. The future appears 
to us neither as impenetrable darkness nor as broad daylight, but rather 
in a half-light, in which we can descry the rough form of the nearest 
objects, and vague outlines farther off. We cannot do without ideas: but 
we should not make ideas into Ideas. We should note the catastrophes 
due to fascination with fantasy, addiction to absolutes. 

10 . 

Generally speaking, the political virtues of free discussion, political 
compromise, plural societies, piecemeal practicality, change without 
chaos, and market economics have triumphed. But it was a near thing, 
and we are still beset by a whole array of great dangers. 

What we call “democracy” is far less a matter of institutions than of 
habits of mind. It is vulnerable to various weaknesses and always needs 
adjustments and improvements—but if these are to be helpful, they 
need to go with the grain of, and be within, the established order. The 
stresses and strains that affect the democracies and the minds of their 
citizens today need not be overestimated, but they must be taken into 
account in any survey of the world as it is, and as it may be. 

It is in this context that we must emphasize the measure of success 
totalitarian ideas had in the minds of citizens of the pluralist coun¬ 
tries. Many in the West gave their full allegiance to these alien beliefs. 
Many others were at any rate not ill disposed towards them. And 
beyond that there was, as we have said, a sort of secondary infection of 
the mental atmosphere of the West which still to some degree persists, 
distorting thought in countries that escaped the more wholesale disas¬ 
ters of our time. 

For example, we still find, even in the West, especially in parts of 
academe, the idea that everything is a struggle for power, or hegemony, 
or oppression; and that all competition is a zero-sum game. This is no 
more than repetition of Lenin’s destructive doctrine—Who-Whom? 
Intellectually, it is reductionism; politically, it is fanaticism. Then again, 

History’s Battleground 

l 7 

much policy-determining “research” is based on supposedly indis¬ 
putable statistical data, which economists at least are now beginning to 
abandon but which are widely used in other contexts—the nombre fixe 
being almost as hard to uproot as the idee fixe. 

It was basically common sense that kept the mass of the people in 
Britain and America less liable than the intelligentsia to delusion about 
the Stalinists, As Orwell said, they were at once too sane and too stupid 
to accept the sophistical in place of the obvious. But common sense by 
itself has its vices, or inadequacies. First, it can go with parochialism. 
Chamberlain was not alone in failing to understand that Hitler was 
capable of acts incredible to his Birmingham City Council or other 
“plain, shrewd Britons.” Similarly, this philistine “shrewdness” inclines 
to the view that there is “something to be said on both sides” in inter¬ 
national disputes. (In the Nazi case, the Germans of the Sudetenland 
had a legitimate wish to join Germany; but to put this in the scale was 
to unjustifiably counterbalance the essentials of National Socialism.) 
And then, common sense can decline into muddleheadedness if it is not 
well integrated with the critical faculty, with an open-ended fund of 
knowledge and with a breadth of imagination adequate to unfamiliar 

It was, in fact, what might be called imaginative realism. 

On these matters, as we have said, the inexplicit habits of mind of 
the public are often more sensible than the prescriptions elaborated in 
the minds of the intelligentsia. Understanding of the complications and 
contradictions in life implies that all ideas, but particularly those carry¬ 
ing a high emotional charge, should be critically examined in the main 
areas where they are generated and transmitted—that is, at a superficial 
level in the media, and at a more responsible level in education. 

We may here take note of what we may call Ismology. It has long, 
though not all that long, been a custom to use the termination “-ism” 
to validate ones own opinion or to demonize another's. 

In the latter case, a crude effect is obtained by the use of the grab- 
bag term “fascism” not to specify a form of state or of state theory, 
but, often enough, to object to the use of any form of authority or dis¬ 
cipline. Indeed George Orwell noted (as early as 1944) that he had 
heard the word “Fascist” applied to a list of targets including farmers, 
shopkeepers, Social Credit, corporal punishment, fox hunting, bullfight¬ 
ing, Kipling, Gandhi, Chiang Kai-shek, homosexuality, Youth Hostels, 


astrology, women, dogs. . . . He also pointed out that at a more serious 
level, “conscription and a professional army are both denounced as 
Fascist phenomena/' But more usually (and less absurdly) ism-ing brings 
together under one term a complexity of examples, or a variety of phe¬ 
nomena, phraseologically obliterating the often crucial contexts or dif¬ 
ferences, as with “capitalism'’ or “imperialism" (see Chapter XIII). 

Using the termination positively, though equally concretizing a fluid¬ 
ity, we find such concepts, or banners, as “feminism" and “environmen¬ 
talism" where long-standing and broadly accepted attitudes take on—or 
often take on—a good deal of the intensity and lack of proportion of 
ideologies proper, and some of the viral qualities of an Idea. Nor 
should we perhaps forget the strange usage “activism," almost always a 
favorable word, though the Nazis (for example) were at least as “active" 
as their betters—indeed deserving of the label “hyperactivist." 

Though only peripherally within the scope of this book, we must 
also note that acceptance of Freudian and other more or less determin¬ 
istic psychological theories was also an example of the attractions of a 
pseudoscience, with enough intellectual complexity and a mission in 
human life. The result was a culture of, or tendency toward, tout cotnpren - 
dre e’est tout pardotmer —and, in conjunction with social determinism, of 
distorting the legitimate claims of social order. 

Nevertheless, as J. A. C. Brown remarks at the end of his book Freud 
and the Post-Freudians , “The explanation of the irrational is a special task 
of the twentieth century." We shall not attempt an explanation properly 
speaking, but a mere examination of the phenomenon may be helpful in 
understanding and avoiding it. 

As we have said, intellectual errors in general are often due to ignor¬ 
ing the fact that the human being is both social and individual. To con¬ 
ceive him as solely, or preponderantly, one or the other leads to 
distortions of policy. The normal human being is motivated both by a 
desire to improve his own lot and a desire to conform to certain social 
or moral principles; and in normal life there is mutual adjustment of 
these urges, sometimes in makeshift fashion. 

Hypostatized ideas lead to a lack of balance in this and other 
respects. In fact, we may see the essential of the civic society in its 
preservation of balance—between the individual and the community, 
between the desirable and the possible, between our knowledge and our 

History’s Battleground ♦ 19 

The balance implies that we should neither accept solutions, however 
fashionable, however much supported by narrow-gauge experts, nor 
deny or minimize the problems. What one might call the nonideology 
of moderation. 

Our purpose is not so much to condemn as to understand the nega¬ 
tive phenomena, and especially in the context of helping to prevent such 
misconceptions in future—not as matters of mere mental improvement 
in the abstract, but more importantly in warning against the huge disas¬ 
ters lying in wait for the unaware. 

We have developed what is often left implicit, the positive character¬ 
istics, though also the weaknesses, that have arisen in our own social and 
political order. We should now consider how such orders have emerged. 



The Culture of Sanity 


T he only reason we are able to examine our own and other histo¬ 
ry in an open way is that the culture which makes such thinking 
possible has, so far, survived and prevailed. 

People forget what a remarkable thing it is that in our countries we 
have such rights and liberties. Civilizations have existed for thousands of 
years in which there was no trace of the mere idea of criticizing the gov¬ 
ernment, of being secure from arbitrary arrest, of having a fair trial (or 
even a fairish trial, or even a trial at all), of printing almost anything one 
likes, of voting for one of a number of candidates for public office. 

We need to consider the origins and development of our social and 
political order. What follows, therefore, is an examination of our histo¬ 
ry in that context, and an appraisal of its present heritage. That is to say, 
we are not concerned with the blemishes it shares with all cultures, nor 
with the triumphs in literary and other spheres which it also shares with 
many, or most. We seek, rather, the essential developments that marked 
the emergence of the Open Society. 

2 . 

In England a consensual tradition was maintained, with occasional lurches 
and recoveries, through Anglo-Saxon times and, presumably, from the pre¬ 
historic originals. Of necessity, a consensual relationship existed in primi¬ 
tive society. The more or less egalitarian order could not be maintained 
after the population of a given community rose above a fairly small num¬ 
ber. Anthropologists have estimated that a maximum figure seems to be 
around four or five hundred. Common sense and the experience of 
schools, army units and so forth would suggest the same. The reasons for 

The Culture of Sanity 

♦ il 

change were thus strictly those associated with the impossibility of main¬ 
taining purely personal relations with larger numbers, together with the 
fact that specialization could begin to emerge when numbers were large 
enough. At this point a “chiefdom” type of organization arose. 

Engels was right in finding a cooperative type of order in the general 
prehistoric condition of man. But the economic reductionism that 
makes such cooperation primarily an economic matter distorts this 
primitive communalism to the hard category of “primitive commu¬ 
nism," seeing the situation as in essence the mere absence of economic 
classes. In fact, the economic side, even in primitive society, where the 
pressure of need might be thought greatest, clearly did not play this 
supposedly dominating role in human relationships, where family, magic 
and general cultural attitudes were if anything predominant. If it comes 
to that, even the “social” organization of the higher apes does not seem 
to be dominated solely by feeding habits. Perhaps Marxism comes into 
its own somewhere lower down the evolutionary scale. 

It is true that the great civilizations of Asia could not have emerged 
without a centralized despotic state, usually to control the large-scale 
irrigation systems beyond the scope of smaller units. Much was there¬ 
fore gained, but much was also lost. The hopeful direction of democrat¬ 
ic culture is to combine the tradition of consensual tribalism with the 
centralization of those complex civilizations. 

For the rise in the West and elsewhere of “chiefdoms,” and later of a 
variety of legal and political forms, did not of necessity mean the end 
of the older communalism and consensualism, but rather its rise to a 
more “civic” level. To the natural articulation between individuals or 
families was added a more complex articulation between local commu¬ 
nities. Thus, as the social order became more complex, and larger, we 
may again agree with the Marxists and others that formal law and cen¬ 
tral organization became necessary. From this time on we may trace in 
every civil order the struggle between the civic and the state elements. 

Naturally, the machinery of power attracted, to put it at its simplest, 
those who like power. In many areas, as we have said, the older relations 
gave way to despotism. This depended on local circumstances. But it 
was not a matter of economic or cultural level: Egypt and later 
Mongolia became despotisms; Attica and later Jutland retained an artic¬ 
ulation of citizenry. 

As is indeed obvious, there are elites in all orders, including democra- 


cy itself. Outside very small groups, any political formation involves 
some form of leadership, with either a large or a negligible element of 
consent. Power is always, to some degree, in the hands of minorities. 
And all political organizations have a tendency to fall into the hands of 
oligarchical bureaucracies (a tendency that Robert Michel asserts as a 
law). Nor is it just a matter of bureaucracy. We find a still broader and 
more troublesome tendency: the merger of various political and eco¬ 
nomic as well as bureaucratic interests, based on mutual accommoda¬ 
tion in sharing the political and economic control, and the political and 
economic profits. If democracies have been far less corrupt, or less 
unchallengedly corrupt, than their equivalents in the old totalitarian 
regimes (or in some of the new economies of, in particular, Asia), this is 
due precisely to the liberties and the pluralism of our societies. Thus, in 
the consensual order these are obstacles that can be overcome, the com¬ 
munity as a whole possessing the means to exert the necessary pressures, 
if in an untidy, belated and incomplete way. 


In its most important aspect, the civic order is that which has created a 
strong state while still maintaining the earlier principle of consensus. It 
was the Western European nation-state which provided the possibili¬ 
ty—no more—of political society on a scale which was neither too 
small (as with the Greek city-states) nor too large (as with the Eurasian 
empires). This was partly a matter of geographical luck. 

Primitive consensuality was rarely able to survive for long the evolu¬ 
tion of highly organized, larger state forms; yet at a very advanced 
state of chiefdom, among the Saxons and other sophisticated “tribal" 
societies, a type of civic relationship persisted. There is, of course, 
nothing new in the idea that our liberties derive from early times. 
Montesquieu saw the origins of the English Constitution in the 
woods of Saxony. Bancroft even traced the early American institutions 
to the forest Teutons, calling the early Virginians “Anglo-Saxons in the 
woods again." 

It has often been pointed out that appeals to past tradition, which 
have always marked English history in particular, have usually been 
appeals to bogus history. This is true, but only in a rather superficial 
sense. Seventeenth-century parliamentarians appealing to Saxon liberties 
against the Norman oppressor are easy to laugh at. Yet they had the nub 

The Culture of Sanity ♦ 23 

of the matter. The memory is blurred, idealized, wrong in a number of 
respects; but it contains in this slightly distorted form the idea of the 
rights of Englishmen, and the truth that these rights in a general sense 
are rooted in the remembered tradition. Since the collapse of Rome 
there has never been any significant period in Britain when the state was 
strong enough to enforce its will without considerable concessions to 
the rights and liberties of important sections of its subjects and with¬ 
out reliance upon consent. By later standards, the early rights and liber¬ 
ties were defective and incomplete. But their continuity proved a solid 
foundation for their extension century by century. 

The special characteristic that gave rise to an English society different 
from those on the Continent seems to be that the English conquest of 
(most of) Britain was piecemeal. It was not a question, as in France or 
Spain, of united barbarian armies under their acknowledged kings sim¬ 
ply taking over a country. The piecemeal progress of the English meant 
that individual settlements sprang up, of varying origins, incorporating 
the indigenous populations, having the same or similar laws and cus¬ 
toms and (eventually) acknowledging one or another small king. The 
groupings on a fairly small scale remained the traditional basis of the 
nation, which was thus created from below rather than from above. 

The Germanic nations that came to Britain had various political cus¬ 
toms. While the Anglos had had “kings” for several centuries, the 
Saxons had not. All the Saxon “townships’’ judged important legal cases 
and agreed upon the plans that would guide them in peace or war dur¬ 
ing the coming year. 

The effect on the American political culture of the special circum¬ 
stances of its Frontier has, of course, been much discussed since the end 
of the last century. The idea of the determining effect of small commu¬ 
nities owing a general allegiance to government on the coast, but beyond 
its effective protection and compelled to rely on their own common ini¬ 
tiative, clearly has much to be said for it in accounting for the special 
circumstances of American democracy. This was in a sense a reenact¬ 
ment of the original spread of the English settlers in Britain. 

In both the English and the American cases, it was not, of course, a 
matter of traditionless man evolving administrative forms to suit the 
circumstances. Both Americans and Saxons built their new communities 
on the basis of traditional laws and rights as they remembered them. 

Of course, it is ridiculous to claim any special merit for the Anglo- 


Saxon culture because it was the first to develop, or rather to maintain, a 
civic level of state. If ours were to succumb, there are other sources of a 
consensus civilization from which it could again emerge. It is not neces¬ 
sary for us to be overbearing about the heritage; it is a matter of luck 
that we are born into it. (All the same, \*hy should we not repeat the 
words of Naboth, “Jehovah forbid that I should give unto thee the 
inheritance of my forefathers”?) 


This flexible articulation had thus evolved from earliest English times. But 
a further, associated characteristic of English society, long misunderstood, 
was socioeconomic in that as far back as can be documented, that is, into 
the twelfth century, there seems to have been no English “peasantry” in 
the European sense. It had long been assumed by historians that—per¬ 
haps as late as the seventeenth century—something like the situation in 
France had prevailed in the English countryside: insulated, introspective 
village communities, with little migration and little economic contact out¬ 
side, and little social mobility, all living on an “extended family” basis. All 
this now appears to be untrue. There was much mobility 7 , personal rather 
than family ownership, much trade and nonagricultural production, much 
sale and transfer of lands—even by villeins (the tenure of villeinage was 
only abolished in 1926). Thus, it is now felt, what may be seen as a mar¬ 
ket economy was long in existence and largely prevalent, and was the basis 
from which the Anglo—Industrial Revolution could emerge. 

The product of the higher form of political order was variety in 
unity. As W. H. Auden put it (summarizing Whitehead, in The Portable 
Creek Reader ): 

Civilisation is a precarious balance between barbaric vagueness and trivial 
order. Barbarism is unified but undifferentiated; triviality is differentiated 
but lacking in any central unity; the ideal of civilisation is the integration 
into a complete whole and with the minimum strain, of the maximum 
number of distinct activities. 

In its most important aspect, the civic order is that which created a 
strong state while still maintaining the principle of consensus that exist¬ 
ed in primitive society. Such an aim involves the articulation of a com¬ 
plex political and social order in which strains cannot be eliminated but 
can be continually adjusted. 

The Culture of Sanity 

♦ 2J 

The civic culture, though containing the possibility of democracy, is 
thus not necessarily “democratic/' And though containing the potential¬ 
ity of the “Open Society/' it is not in itself, or necessarily, definable as 
such. It is a society in which various elements can express themselves 
politically, in which an articulation exists between these elements at the 
political level: not a perfect social order, which is in any case unobtain¬ 
able, but a society that hears, considers and reforms grievances. 

In England liberty and the rule of law long preceded ‘'democracy." 
And indeed, it could be argued that only those who already practice 
consensual politics are equipped to make democracy work; or, to put it 
another way, that democracy cannot spring fully formed and viable out 
of the depths of despotism. (The confusion of liberty with democracy 
is a strange one. When one hears, as one not seldom does, an 
Englishman in a pub saying indignantly, "It's a free country, isn’t it?" he 
is in no way referring to his right to elect the government, but merely to 
his right to say what he wants—and he knows it. There seems to be no 
reason why more sophisticated folk should not also see this.) 

The civic order thus includes the “future": that is, it is open to it. As 
Macaulay acutely remarked, the 1689 Declaration of Rights, though it 
did not in itself establish a number of the liberties later won by the 
English people, did not give dissenters full equality, prohibit the slave 
trade, reform the representative system, or secure the liberty of the 
press, nevertheless contained the “germ" of all these good laws, and also 
“of every good law which may hereafter, in the course of ages, be found 
necessary to promote the public weal, and to satisfy the demands of 
public opinion." In fact, it established an open-ended system under 
which “the means of effecting every improvement which the constitu¬ 
tion requires may be found within the constitution itself." Macaulay has, 
of course, been crimed for his Whig Interpretation of History. Insofar 
as he suggests that the progress after 1689 was almost unimpeded, that 
it was almost complete by the time he wrote, and that it had a certain 
inevitability, this criticism is obvious. But it does not really affect the 
broader concept. So, to put it slightly differently, the general principles 
then established, or rather reaffirmed, were imperfectly realized in the 
then state of affairs, for the practical reason that the political nation was 
not ready to approve of them; but their future development, barring the 
overthrow of the system, was guaranteed, by the fact that their lack was 
progressively felt in each case to be an anomaly rather than a legitimate 


and natural result of English principles. The reformer—the corrector of 
wrongs—was always to feel at a moral advantage, and his opponent to 
plead merely practical difficulties and the unripe state of public opin¬ 
ion—pleas not without their force, but all the same admittedly limited 
and temporary. 

There was, in fact, a built-in tendency in the civic order to extend 
itself to those originally excluded from it, whether because of their 
belief, like the Catholics, or for economic class reasons, like the bulk of 
the working class, or for reason of sex, i.e., women. The history of 
British constitutional progress has been that of making these extensions. 
These groups were, it is true, assimilated piecemeal into the system 
against considerable inertia. It may be argued that gradualness ensured 
the thoroughness of the assimilation. 

But it is also the case that, partly owing to the anomalies resulting 
from the very archaism in the system, the working class were not by any 
means totally excluded even before the Reform Bills of the nineteenth 
century. In the London and Middlesex constituencies, and in Preston in 
Lancashire, the franchise was already wide, and it was generally under¬ 
stood that these constituencies indicated the feeling of that section of 
the people not elsewhere represented. Moreover, the more general civil 
liberties enabled a good deal of pressure to be brought to bear on voters 
by the nonvoting sectors of the community. Both the threatening aspect 
of the “mob” and the kisses of the Duchess of Devonshire played their 
part. Again, the fact that the premier duke of England was a Roman 
Catholic was only one of the various ways in which that particular 
minority could exert its influence. Such things may be thought to be 
among the advantages arising from the inconsistencies inherent in a 
nondogmatic system. 

In fact, we cannot ignore the mere idiosyncrasies, as they may appear 
to be, in the history of the cultures of various countries; these apparent¬ 
ly superficial and sentimental matters are often of great influence, usu¬ 
ally in reinforcing the traditional consensus (or otherwise) of the 
country in question. 


One peculiarity distinguished the English Parliament, almost from the 
medieval start, from most of its then equivalents on the Continent: the 
representatives of the shires and cities sat together as a single chamber. 

The Culture of Sanity ♦ 27 

The merchants and the knights were thrown into collaboration. For 
there were two partially separate civic trends. In the newly developing 
towns specific liberties and independences were needed for the develop¬ 
ment of trade; in the countryside the traditional desire for consultation 
and order remained. 

One of the few other areas where the civic order prevailed almost 
uninterruptedly was Switzerland, another example of the pragmatically 
born nation-state. As has been pointed out, on the face of it the coun¬ 
try had none of the qualifications for statehood, let alone for a stable 
civic order. It lacked ethnic, cultural, economic and, later, religious 
unity. It was a strange alliance of small communities of farmers, cities, 
minor feudal lordlings, each generally supporting the others, in a net¬ 
work of rights and obligations built up piecemeal. 

Elsewhere it is particularly striking to see the Iceland of the saga 
period, a country with no state machinery whatsoever, nevertheless 
forming into a community of settlements scattered over a huge area 
under the shield of a traditional Law, often broken but eventually pre¬ 
vailing—until the culture decayed for other reasons. 

John Morris, the (left-wing) historian of the Dark Ages, has put it of 
England that “custom has expected that men of suitable standing 
should be heard before decision is reached; society has frequently dis¬ 
agreed about which men should be heard but when it has reached agree¬ 
ment, governments that ignored agreed opinion have been denied 
obedience and revenue.” Local tenures and local institutions “trained 
English society to respect governments that co-ordinate and to disci¬ 
pline governments that rule by command.” 

These attitudes maintained the flexibility of English society, with an 
easier movement of ideas and smoother social change than was possible in 
most of Europe. Above all, it became possible to correct a powerful central 
government, which was still obliged to observe the restraints of custom: 
“Time and effort shaped a tradition of firm leadership and light rule.” 

Generally speaking, great and successful rulers in England were those, 
like Edward 1 and Edward III, who worked within the laws and customs 
and sought cooperation rather than submission from the representatives 
of the cities and counties. In turn, from Magna Carta on, the community 
rarely called into question the essential powers of the executive, though 
particular kings might be, and were, removed. These were those monarchs, 
like Edward II, Richard III and James II, who sought to extend the power 


of the state at the expense of the community. And the balance in each 
case was restored by a constitutionalist counterrevolution. 

For the civic tradition of Britain has fairly often in the past been 
faced by more dynamic, more modern “waves of the future.” In Yorkist 
times in the fourteenth century, the attempt was made to install in 
England a streamlined, Renaissance-style despotism (complete with the 
torture and treachery of the Sforzas and the Borgias). In Stuart times in 
the seventeenth century came the attempt to turn England into one of 
the new Divine Right monarchies, again to the accompaniment of ille¬ 
gality and torture. In fact, like the more successful despotisms in France 
and elsewhere, to use the power of the executive to destroy the civic 
nature of English society. This was finally defeated by the Revolution of 
1688, just as George Ills attempt to do the same thing in his American 
territories was destroyed by the Revolution of 1776. 

The medieval style of civic order, with its system of rights and obli¬ 
gations, was powerful in many parts of Europe where it was later 
crushed—for example, in Aragon. But as Karl Mannheim points out, 
the “democratization” of the late Middle Ages was followed by a retro¬ 
grade tendency in which European society became “refeudalized.” The 
condition of the peasantry in the France of the thirteenth century was 
better than in the France of the eighteenth century, just as in the Russia 
of 1910 it was better than in the Russia of 1980. Until Philip II, or 
Louis XIV, the civic element was still putting up a struggle, just as in 
England, until William III, the despotic element in Britain still seemed 
capable of victory. The general effect of the victory of “absolutism” in 
France from Louis XIVs time was to prevent political and economic 

6 . 

As we have noted, the French Enlightenment originated as a side effect 
of the British Enlightenment, and its originators from Montesquieu to 
Voltaire were quite clear about this. Over the next couple of generations, 
detached from much real political experience or inheritance, their move¬ 
ment had diverged into abstract Reason and abstract Romanticism— 
illustrated in the celebration by the two almost equally extreme sects in 
the Revolution, of the Goddess of Reason and the Supreme Being, 
respectively. The contrast between this sort of thing and the British 
Enlightenment is well expressed by Lytton Strachey, who saw the latter s 

The Culture of Sanity ♦ 29 

essence in the “profound, sceptical and yet essentially conservative genius 
of Hume.” The French Revolution can be seen, from the constructive 
point of view, as the release of tensions, like a sudden slip in the San 
Andreas Fault, so that the long overdue emergence of the market econo¬ 
my in the countryside could eventuate. It could be and has been argued 
that the excesses were in some sense unavoidable, and that by the time of 
the Third Republic France had gradually settled down to a situation 
already achieved in Britain. According to this view, the 1871 Commune 
was the last temblor of the catastrophe. Unfortunately, the mere fact that 
a civic tradition had been so largely destroyed, and a revolutionary-mes¬ 
sianic tradition had had such a run for its money, left the latter powerful¬ 
ly embedded in the French consciousness even a hundred years later, 
though now being seen in a skeptical perspective. 

Our cultures, our histories, grasp us with a thousand invisible fingers. 
The characteristics of individual countries, even, are of an enormous 
complexity; the details that give them savor and body, that pull them into 
one, are often not merely fantastic but also contradictory. They resemble, 
rather than a monolith, a conglomerate rock that has been pressed 
together from a variety of minerals into a tough solidity. Again, each 
country is inhabited not only by its citizens but also by ghosts from the 
past and by phantasms from imaginary futures or saints from lands out¬ 
side time. Even as to the details, Boswell remarked truly of English histo¬ 
ry that if it were not so well attested, no one could believe it. 

Cultures have had, as they still have, great intrinsic momenta, and 
they cannot be rapidly turned in new directions. The processes involved 
are often long ones; it may take generations for a civic culture to emerge 
from a despotic environment and, equally, generations to destroy previ¬ 
ously existing civic attitudes. In his great chapter on the English 
Revolution of 1688, Macaulay writes of the French Revolution that 
“had six generations of Englishmen passed away without a single ses¬ 
sion of Parliament,” then we too would have needed years of blood and 
confusion “to learn the very rudiments of political science,” and been 
equally duped by childish theories; and have equally “sought refuge 
from anarchy in despotism, and been again driven from despotism into 
anarchy.” Six generations: even though France had started not too far 
from the English style and had by no means become totally uncivic. At 
any rate, we must avoid being too sanguine about the early blossoming 
of new cultural styles in areas where history has rooted others. 


7 . 

As against the absolutist attitudes of its rivals, it is a condition of the 
“Western” or “democratic” or “pluralist” culture that it makes no claim 
to perfection and is always in a process of adjustment and argument, 
and often of indecision and muddleheadedness. Nor is “democracy” in 
the abstract a sound definition of these societies. 

At worst, it may lead to a fetishizing of elections, of popular voting, 
as such. This has so often—as with the German election of 1933—led 
to disaster that it is now not seriously urged. At a rather higher level, we 
find the view that the crux is institutional. It is true that without the 
various institutions we think of as democratic, democracy can hardly 
subsist. But here again there are enough states with institutions that are 
admirable in form, but that are deficient in some essential intrinsicality. 

The first questioning of the existing state by the pre-Socratics and 
the eventual rise of a variety of Greek regimes which gave Aristotle the 
material for his empirically comparative work—all this is deep in our 
background; but it had little directly to do with the emergence of the 
pluralist order in the West, with which we are here concerned, where 
“democracy” in principle opposes the rights of a majority to, in 
Madisons words, act in a way “adverse to the rights of other citizens or 
to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.” Other 
founders or refounders of the American system, like Jefferson, were 
equally clear about the danger of the “tyranny of the majority.” 

Above all, it is no part of its culture that a government elected by a 
bare majority, or even by a fairly large majority, is thereby empowered to 
totally reconstruct the social and political order by sacrificing the minor¬ 
ity. That great political philosopher Michael Oakeshott notes that for 
some people government is “an instrument of passion; the art of politics 
is to inflame and direct desire.” For others, which is to say, in general, for 
those who have a traditional regard for the unity and continuity of a cul¬ 
ture, the business of government is something different: “to restrain, to 
deflate, to pacify, and to reconcile; not to stoke the fires of desire, but to 
damp them down,” on the grounds that, as Oakeshott puts it, “the con¬ 
junction of dreaming and ruling generates tyranny.” For it is a basic prin¬ 
ciple of true, as against despotic, politics that it is more important for 
the civic system as such to be unshaken than for particular measures to 
be opposed or insisted on to the limit. A democratic community enjoy¬ 
ing political liberty is only possible when the attachment of the majority 

The Culture of Sanity ♦ j l 

of the citizens to political liberty is stronger than their attachment to 
specific political doctrines. And this is to say that on many controversial 
issues a certain comparative apathy must prevail among a large part of 
the population. But apathy cannot appear a virtue to the man who has 
committed himself to an intellectually elaborated scheme or policy. 

In a famous investigation of the politics of the small town of Elmira, 
New York, in the 1950s, the scholars concerned (Paul Lazarfeld, 
Bernard Berelson and William McPhee) were at first surprised by the 
results. The democratic processes had worked very satisfactorily in the 
town for a very long period. So, on theoretical principles, the researchers 
expected to find the citizenry well informed about political issues, with 
firm and clear-cut opinions. They found, on the contrary, that the 
majority were fairly ill informed and fairly apathetic. They concluded, 
after admirable heart-searching on their own part, that this was the con¬ 
dition for a working democracy. On the other hand, it may be urged 
that the instability of many of the Greek states was due to the devotion 
to politics of all concerned and that, to a lesser degree, this has been the 
cause of many of the difficulties met with in France in the last fifty 
years (though it has been suggested that the ideological enthusiasm of 
the French electorate was to some extent compensated for by the cyni¬ 
cism and apathy of the deputies themselves). 

At any rate, all the major troubles the world has had in our era have 
been caused by people who have let politics become a mania. The politi¬ 
cian should be a servant and should play a limited role. For what our 
political culture has stood for (as against the principles of total theo¬ 
rists and abstractionists) is the view of society as a developing and 
broadening of established liberties and responsibilities, and the belief, 
founded in experience, that in political and social matters long-term 
predictions, however exciting and visionary, seldom work out. 

Reviewing James Scott’s Seeing Like a State in the New Republic of 18 
May 1998, Cass R. Sunstein sums up one of Scott’s main points: 
“States should take small steps rather than large ones. Policies are apt to 
be more successful if they can be reversed once they start to go awry, 
and so good planners ensure reversibility.” The point, obvious enough 
but not available to many enthusiasts, is what one might have thought 
the well-established conclusion that actions have unexpected results. Or, 
to put it another way, that in the human context we cannot predict on 
the basis of theory. 


Meanwhile, we can again stress that it is part of the heritage of sani¬ 
ty, or of political adulthood, to admit that any real order cannot be per¬ 
fect. But this does not mean that we can ignore, or fail to combat, 
tendencies to degeneration of the civic order—in part due to penetra¬ 
tion of its intellectual atmosphere by the direct, or dilute, effects of the 
totalitarian ideas. 

Nor is abstract “libertarian” principle of much use in real life. Since 
a political order of the consensual type depends on the maintenance of 
a strong mediating state, since liberty and law are mutually dependent, 
it follows that when state and law are threatened by immediate danger 
they have the duty to defend themselves, even at the cost of a temporary 
suspension of particular rights. 

The maintenance of liberties, the principle of the accommodation of 
various interests, the preserving of balances, imply totally different aims 
and attitudes in the civic politician from those prevailing among revolu¬ 
tionaries and despots. It would be impossible for a representative of their 
cultures to see that the highest praise possible to confer on a statesman 
in an advanced society would be in the nature of what was said (by 
Macaulay) about Halifax: that he was “the foremost champion of order 
in the turbulent Parliament of 1680, and the foremost champion of lib¬ 
erty in the servile Parliament of 1685.” 

8 . 

By the Western “democratic” culture we primarily mean that of the 
English-speaking countries. In most other Western countries it took 
hold, flickered, faded, failed and much later revived. 

Mature democracy as we know it developed not on the basis of theo¬ 
ry but from earlier times, in which something like consensus or balance 
had to be reached between various limited groups in society, and it was 
only long after these conventions had been established that the principle 
gradually extended to the entire adult population. That is to say, democ¬ 
racy is the latest and in principle highest development of a long process. 
Or, to put it another way, it depends for its arrival and survival on long- 
established foundations, both institutional and mental. 

“Civil society” has been much spoken of as a condition of modern 
democracy, since de Tocqueville noted the networks of private and vol¬ 
untary organizations that permeated British and American society. This 
habit of spontaneous legal, public activity is clearly an adjunct, if not a 

The Culture of Sanity ♦ jj 

condition, of the Anglo-Celtic culture. “Civil society” is often heard 
both in the ex-Communist countries and in the West as the order to 
which those areas seek to evolve. “Civil society” was the formulation of 
the Scottish eighteenth-century philosophers, and implied, as Michael 
Ignatieff puts it, one that allows “individuals to associate with each 
other in bewilderingly complex rituals—friendships, sports teams, work 
groups, and amateur and professional associations of all kinds”— 
adding that they “form a pattern of life absolutely distinct from the 
kinship ties of tribal society or the party ties of the totalitarian state” 
Indeed this type of association is implicitly condemned by Rousseau as 
disruptive of the General Will. 

But in covering the interaction of politics and society, the interaction 
between the state and its citizens, and between the various political 
groupings of those citizens, “civil society” only takes us so far. 

After all, “civil society” in this definition applied not only to 
England but also to France of the ancien regime. That is to say, it only 
goes part of the way in achieving the higher level of a civic or consensu¬ 
al order. Thus the concept of civil society, true and important though it 
is, covers only the nonpolitical, or unofficial, side. To comprehend our 
order as a whole, we need a broader view. 

Concepts better suited to these phenomena are, indeed, “civic” and 
“consensual.” A civic society can be seen as one in which the state and its 
citizens are in balance, with the state prevented from exercising excessive 
power. A consensual society is one in which the various political elements 
among the population accept systematic methods of compromise, and so 
avoid anything like majoritarian despotism. 

Thus the mere creation of democratic institutions and electoral 
processes is nothing like enough to guarantee the survival of democracy 
unless and until an evolution of political attitudes, and an acceptance of 
consensual principles, really permeate the society in question, and above 
all the Rule of Law that represents and realizes these principles. 

More broadly, confusion in some minds over the whole relationship 
between liberty and democracy can lead to dangerous political results. 



The Marxist Irruption: 
How and Why 


O f the various challenges the civic and democratic order has 
faced, the most pervasive and most tenacious has been 

The year 1998 marked the 150th anniversary of the Communist 
Manifesto. The odd respectable journal suggested that the thought of its 
authors, Marx and Engels, was still of much relevance, since thev had 
predicted a world market. In this they were not unique: and other and 
more distinctive predictions they made proved, to put it mildly, to be 
dangerous will-o'-the-wisps. In fact, the ideas promulgated in the 
Manifesto, and elaborated by the authors until their deaths in 1883 and 
1895, respectively, have been a major source of trouble in the world over 
five generations. 

Other manifestations of revolutionary-utopian fantasies—anarchism, 
syndicalism and their offshoots—survived, but for a variety 7 of reasons, 
which we shall examine, Marxism was the overwhelmingly dominant 
form in which this mind-set has presented itself. 

Some discussion of its particular fallacies must naturally emerge in 
any treatment of it; but for our purposes the questions are: how did it 
arise? how did it develop? and what were the characteristics which 
enabled it (and to a lesser degree still enable it) to affect so many 
minds? What follows is thus neither a full examination nor a full cri¬ 
tique of Marxism. Marxism is here considered in the way it gained 
acceptance—allegiance, in fact—as a human mental phenomenon. 

The Marxist Irruption: How and Why ♦ j j 

2 . 

Norman Cohn points out in his classical study of apocalyptic move¬ 
ments in medieval and postmedieval Europe, The Pursuit of the Millennium } 
that modern revolutionaries picture the coming society much as their 
predecessors did: “as a state of total community, a society wholly unan¬ 
imous in its beliefs and wholly free from inner conflicts.” To envisage a 
unanimous social order is to envisage the absence of individuality. 
Utopia amounts to the inflation of the “community” into an entity in 
its own right, rather than a coherence of individual social human beings. 

The late great historian and humanist Leonard Schapiro has shown 
in a striking passage that what Marx envisaged 

was the disappearance, or transcendence (Aufhebung), of the state as a 
result of the social revolution, with a consequent end to the alienation to 
which man is subject. One class by coming to power abolishes all classes 
forever. How does “a class” (if there is such a thing) take power, except 
through commissars? And, even if the state should disappear, this does 
not entail the disappearance of all forms of rule, and certainly does not 
do away with the alienation of man. It may be the case that Marx’s utopia 
of the disappearance of the state was the most dangerous utopia of all 
times. For the end of the state means the end of legal order—but it does 
not mean the end of rule. What survives when the state goes is therefore 
naked rule, unrestrained by law, constitution or convention. 

Marxists argued that in a stateless society any surviving crime would 
be put down by the citizenrv—that is, a sort of revival of the Old 
Wests lynch law. But as even Lenin also pointed out in State and Revolution 
(on the authority of Engels): “Take a factory, a railway, a vessel on the 
high seas ... is it not clear that not one of these complex technical 
units, based on the use of machines and the cooperation of many peo¬ 
ple, could function without a certain amount of subordination, without 
some authority or power?” Marx assumed that in the homogeneous 
society of the future such power would be voluntarily accepted. More 
generally, this supposed human unanimity means abandoning criticism 
of society, that is to say, abandoning our reasoning powers. 

The hazy notion that all problems will be solved, or at least that all 
tragedies will be acceptable or transcended, is also absurd. Andre 
Malraux asked a Communist who was describing the perfect life of the 
future, “What about the man who is run over by a tram?” The answer 


was, “In the perfect tramway system of the future there will be no acci¬ 
dents.” An absurd example, but even less extreme ebullitions of this sort 
of utopian mind-set imply, in T. S. Eliots words (in The Rock), seeking 
“systems so perfect that no man could ever be good.” 

And among these happy Eloi we are also to have an efflorescence of 
“creativity.” Why, it is hard to say, except on the principle that the Good 
Society must have everything. As we know, genius is often, perhaps 
always, the product of tensions and struggles. Yet one is often told in this 
sort of literature that once cleansed from the pressures of class society, 
every man may be a Shakespeare or a Beethoven-and-Shakespeare. How 
can there be several billion ways of being gigantically original? And these 
results are supposed to emerge from extreme homogenization! 

Of course all real life is caught up in parochial or shortsighted 
motives; of course all organizations are inefficient; of course selfishness 
and corruption occur in all societies. The civilized response is indigna¬ 
tion, revulsion, political action; but it is also a sense of proportion, a 
rejection of the idea of utopian alternatives. 

Finally, all such militant dogmas and allegiances and enthusiasms 
denouncing implacable, destructive, even satanic opponents appeal to a 
human emotion in presupposing the “enemy”—a scapegoat, an object of 
hate: in the Marxist case the class or ideological enemy—the bourgeois, 
both in themselves and as part of the system (Hitler, too, was to urge his 
followers not only against Jews or plutocrats, but also against das System ). 

3 . 

Marx was seen, and saw himself, as “the Darwin of society”: as the 
originator of a historical science to match Darwins biological science. 
He provided his certainties in terms of proven theory. The contrast 
between his own and Darwins methods is very striking, and indeed, 
Marx saw this himself—referring rather patronizingly to Darwins 
“crude English empiricism.” By this he meant no more than the perfect¬ 
ly true circumstance that Darwin accumulated facts before developing 
his theory, as against the supposedly superior method Marx derived 
from his German academic background, of inventing the theory first 
and then finding the facts to support it. His appeal to Darwinism was 
in accord with the victorious advances in every other field, which predis¬ 
posed audiences to the idea that the same could be done for the study 
of humanity. In fact, Marxisms most persistent fault, and the hardest to 

The Marxist Irruption: How and Why ♦ 37 

be rid of, was one much more widely believed and one which was to 
have other incarnations: that our knowledge of the workings of human 
behavior is now so scientific that we can shape society according to sci¬ 
entific, or rational, blueprints. It is clear, on the contrary, that even now 
we do not know enough about the endlessly complex affairs of the 
human mind or of human society to predict, plan and manipulate. 

Marx s new scientific wording was, above all, modern. A Russian rev¬ 
olutionist around the turn of the century tells how this aspect of 
Marxism struck him and his fellows: 

We seized on Marxism because we were attracted by its logical and eco¬ 
nomic optimism, its strong belief, buttressed by facts and figures, that the 
development of the economy, the development of capitalism (this was 
why we were so interested in it), by demoralising and eroding the founda¬ 
tions of the old society, was creating new social forces (including us) 
which would certainly sweep away the autocratic regime together with all 
its abominations. With the optimism of youth we had been searching for 
a formula that offered hope, and we found it in Marxism. We were also 
attracted by its European nature. Marxism came from Europe. It did not 
smell and taste of home-grown mould and provincialism, but was new, 
and fresh and exciting. 

This modernity still clung to the image of the “scientifically social¬ 
ist” Soviet Union well into the twentieth century. 

Marx’s (then) modernity consisted also in its basing itself on what 
were new phenomena—heavy industry and the industrial proletariat— 
seeing the latter as the class destined to bring history to its appointed 

The “proletarian” element in Marxism carries much of its weight, 
both morally and messianically. Nothing better illustrates the temporally 
parochial set of the whole of its social philosophy. The rise of “heavy” 
industry had indeed, in a general sense, brought together a worker stra¬ 
tum concentrated in enterprises where solidarity of interests could easily 
be organized. The existence, and role, of this new phenomenon struck 
other students of the social scene besides Marx. But Marx erected on it 
the theory that this was the last exploited class—faced by the “capitalist” 
owner as the last exploiting class—and would inherit the earth after the 
(scientifically proven) collapse of the capitalist economy. 

Marx came to his conclusions about the mystic historical nature of the 


new proletarian class before he had even seen an actual proletarian—as, 
indeed, was true of Lenin in the 1880s. But come to that, Marx seems to 
have had a very odd idea of the bourgeoisie. Who can read without laugh¬ 
ter those paragraphs of the Communist Manifesto , which are solemnly print¬ 
ed year after year, about bourgeois sex life in Victorian times? 

The Communists have no need to introduce community of women; it has 
existed almost from time immemorial. Our bourgeois, not content with 
having the wives and daughters of their proletarians at their disposal, not 
to speak of common prostitutes, take the greatest pleasure in seducing 
each others wives. Bourgeois marriage is in reality a system of wives in 

Apart from the notion of the Victorian bourgeoisie sharing each 
others wives on this grand scale, there is something a little unreal, is 
there not, about the idea of the factory owner passing around the slums 
that house his employees, debauching a wife here, a daughter there? 
Particularly, perhaps, during the period of which Marx was writing. It is 
true that Marx himself seduced, and had a child by, his maid—who 
might perhaps be regarded in this context as a proletarian employee. 

Marx did not consider that the proletariat might not be the last “New 
Class“—a term Milovan Djilas coined for the Soviet priviligentsia. Nor 
did he contemplate the possibility that the then new style of heavy 
industry itself, with its horny-handed toilers, might also not be perma¬ 
nent. Indeed, the failure of the Soviet Union in the later technological, 
and military-technological, contest with the West may in part be seen as 
the defeat of archaic heavy industry by newer automated and sophisticat¬ 
ed conditions of production: a defeat of Magnitogorsk by Silicon Valley. 

In any case, those who nominate themselves as “representatives” of a 
given economic class are usually not really so in any rational sense: they 
represent, that is to say, not what will benefit those to whom they are 
supposedly devoted, but an ideological future in which not the real 
interests of the group in question but the theoretical and messianic 
notion of its historical role prevails. In much the same way, extreme 
nationalists (for example, the Nazis) set themselves up as the “represen¬ 
tatives” of their nation. The Nazis did indeed messianize or idolize the 
German nation. In their theory the nation played a far more sublime 
role than it did in the minds of many members of moderate parties in 
the German state. But few, 1 think, would argue that the Nazis’ unri- 

The Marxist Irruption: How and Why ♦ 

valed devotion to nationality in fact operated in the real interests of the 
German people as against a less extreme view. 

In fact, such parties do not necessarily act so much in the real interests 
of the stratum they purportedly serve as for some Idea of those interests 
in which they have wrongly been led to believe. It was always a conscious 
strategy of the Marxists to inculcate into the more or less spontaneous 
movements of the industrial working class the idea that socialism was its 
main, long-term interest. It is an ironic commentary on this that the 
great workers’ risings took place in countries where capitalism had been 
overthrown, in cities like East Berlin, Poznan, Budapest, Gdansk. Adam 
Ulam, in his book Communism , notes that in the 1970 events in Gdansk, 
"the Lenin Shipyard was finally cleared of its sit-in strikers after they had 
been threatened with an artillery bombardment,” "the Paris Commune 
Shipyard was stormed by government forces,” and "Karl Marx Street wit¬ 
nessed a confrontation between a defiant mob and army tanks.” 

One principle basic to all these regimes is that the parties concerned 
came to power while concealing from their rank-and-file supporters the 
inevitable sacrifices that would be asked of them. As Lenin put it: "The 
victory of the workers is impossible without sacrifices, without a tem¬ 
porary worsening of their situation.” Continuing the tradition, Che 
Guevara says the same thing in his Man and Socialism in Cuba: 

The vanguard group is ideologically more advanced than the mass; the 
latter is acquainted with the new values, but insufficiently. While in the 
former a qualitative change takes place which permits them to makes sac¬ 
rifices as a function of their vanguard character, the latter see only by 
halves and must be subjected to incentives and pressures of some intensi¬ 
ty; it is the dictatorship of the proletariat being exercised not only upon 
the defeated class but also individually upon the victorious class. 

1 he result of "proletarian” revolutions has, at any rate, always been 
a lowering of the standard of living of the working class, together with 
the removal of their right to defend themselves against this in tradi¬ 
tional fashion. 

Marx’s own attitude to the working class was already that it had its 
duty to support him. When industrial workers voted Conservative in 
the British election of 1867, Engels wrote to his colleague, "Once 
again the English working class has disgraced itself.” It is hard to imag¬ 
ine what he would have thought of the elections of the 1970s and 


1980s, when the skilled proletariat voted heavily Conservative—many 
years after Capitalism, Conservatism and suchlike were destined to have 


The acceptance of sectarian doctrine on trust is always notable among the 
less intelligent adherents of one or another totalist party. The mobs of 
Byzantium and Alexandria who supported the homoousion, the strange 
fanatics of seventeenth-century London who interpreted Revelation, obvi¬ 
ously have much in common with the rank-and-file Nazis or Communists. 


I remember being told by the late Jacques Katel, once prominent in French 
Communist circles, of how he attended a meeting of the Party branch at 
the Renault works in 1934. A somewhat supercilious representative of the 
Central Committee w r as putting* forward the new line of the “United 
Front’' with the Socialist Party. When he finished, one of the huge, loyal 
militants on whom the French Communist Party so strongly based itself got 
up and said “Catnarade! Ily a wie chose que je nai pas bien compris. Comment se pent- 
il que les Socialistes hier etaient des Jascistes, et aujourd’kui ils sont des catnaradesP ,} The 
representative ol the Central Committee answered shortly, cc Camarade } cest la 
dialectique Upon which, somewhat to Katels surprise, the militant said, “Ah } 
oui, bien sur . . . ah } vous avez raison . . . oui y cest pa, la dialectique . . ” and sat 
down perfectly satisfied. 

The Marxist appeal was not simply the attraction of utopia and of 
dogma. It was also a matter ol becoming one with the masses—the pro¬ 
letariat—or with the movement itself This sort of renunciation of 
individuality has been interpreted as arising, in many cases, in a weak 
personality using others as support; in some cases in a strong, power- 
seeking personality projecting itself It is not our purpose here to devel¬ 
op a psychology of the phenomenon, which has been pursued by others, 
but to stress its practical importance. 

Nor did the Marxist elites, when in power, have much respect for the 
masses. The Yugoslav Communist Anton Ciliga tells of how in the early 
1930s the Soviet Communist intelligentsia and apparat already saw the 
masses, as under Fascism, as merely the raw material of the party. 
Joseph Berger, the veteran secretary of the Palestine Communist Party, 
was told, when in postwar Poland: 'As a Party member you have no 
business to talk about what the masses want. They will want what we 
want.” In fact, this was put in even more authoritarian fashion by the 

The Marxist Irruption: How and Why ♦ 41 

Hungarian Communist leader Janos Kadar, in his address to the 
Hungarian National Assembly in 1957: 

The task of the leaders is not to put into effect the wishes and will of the 
masses. The task of the leaders is to accomplish the interests of the mass¬ 
es. Why do I differentiate between the will and the interests of the mass¬ 
es? In the recent past we have encountered the phenomenon of certain 
categories of workers acting against their interests. 

Only when envisaged in the abstract, as verbal icons, did the prole¬ 
tariat or the masses figure positively. 

Identification with masses and movements is not, of course, unique 
to Marxism. The nation, or the race, provided masses just as plausible as 
the proletariat, and movements just as dogmatically overpowering as the 


Marxism s appeal had the advantages of both simplicity and complexity. 
It was not so simple as to sound naive, like Proudhons “Property is 
theft.” Its main themes were simple enough to be apprehended without 
much strain, but at the same time it was convoluted enough to require 
what amounted to a caste of interpreters. It may be thought that such 
conceptual deviousness would be a disadvantage rather than an advan¬ 
tage. And it may be asked how such a work as Capital , very difficult read¬ 
ing in its economic sections proper, had such a wide repute. 

As the late Hugh Gaitskell (later leader of the Labour Party) 
explained, the ideas of economic heretics 

are frequently vague or complicated and not as a rule expressed in the 
clearest possible manner. How is it that, in spite of this, they achieve such 
fame and popularity? As we have suggested above, vagueness and complex¬ 
ity are not really limitations, but, on the contrary, advantages. For they 
make the task of criticism tedious and difficult and enable the heretic to 
say with perfect truth that his views have never been refuted. At the same 
time the support of the plain man is not any way forfeited. For the most 
part he will not bother his head with the complicated details. He will be 
content to accept the broad conclusions largely on irrational grounds. 

Thus, as David Simmons puts it (in his Ideals and Dogma ), “It is possible 
that the faults of Marxism stem from an inability to express things clearly; 


it is equally likely that the lack of clarity is sometimes a device to mask the 
fact that the conclusions sought could not be arrived at by logical means/’ 
A further advantage of Marxism lay in its irrefutability, even apart 
from its critics’ inherent disqualification. For it was sufficiently vague and 
flexible to be adjusted to fit any subject matter, at least to the satisfaction 
of its practitioners. As Gibbon noted of the Neoplatonists, “This free¬ 
dom of interpretation . . . exposed the vanity of their art . . . the 
solemn trifling and the impenetrable obscurity of these sages who pro¬ 
fessed to reveal the system of the universe. As they translated an arbitrary 
cipher they could extract . . . any sense that was adapted to their 
favourite system.” 

Discussion in Marxist terms reminds me of Peter de Vriess remark 
about someone being profound only on the surface, while deep down 
remaining superficial. Nadezhda Mandelshtam, the widow of the doomed 
poet, tells of her husbands conversations with a dedicated Marxist: 

I was irritated by the debate between them. To Chechanovski it was self- 
evident that M.s view of the world was quite outmoded, and that he was 
unable to reform, poor fellow. M., on the other hand, was just wasting his 
breath by disputing Chechanovski s not very sophisticated dialectical con¬ 
structions, which were food neither for the mind nor for the heart. If 
Marxism had not been the official ideology, binding everybody who 
wanted to earn his daily bread, M. would scarcely have allowed himself to 
get seriously involved in a discussion of the “basis” and the “superstruc¬ 
ture,” or the theory of “leaps.” ... In arguing against Marxism, its oppo¬ 
nents were forced to use the same language, and by the very nature of the 
subject, any discussion of it inevitably led to a drop in the intellectual 
level. But M. was so desperate to have someone to talk with that he was 
only too glad of these conversations even with such an ill-matched (but 
on the whole innocuous) companion as Chechanovski. There really was 
no one to talk with, and the level was being systematically lowered all the 
time. Marxists and non-Marxists were becoming equally dreary. 

A former professor, the nephew of the reformer of Alexander II’s time, 
Loris-Melikov was even more dismissive. He mentioned to a fellow 
camp inmate that at his institute he had given lessons in dialectical 
materialism. Asked if he knew the subject, he replied, “What is there to 
know about such rubbish except the patter?” 

To be fair, serious Soviet scholars having to work within, or present 

The Marxist Irruption: How and Why ♦ 

their work as if within, these categories, sometimes contrived to make 
sense, especially in spheres of no great sensitivity. But by the end of the 
1980s, as discipline relaxed, even the central Party ideological bodies 
held discussions in which Marx was hardly mentioned, and the names 
heard were Westerners like Durkheim and Weber. An editor of the 
Party's theoretical journal, Kommunist , approached me in my office for a 
contribution. When I asked him how the journal was doing, he 
answered that it was selling very poorly—“What do you expect with a 
title like that?” he added. The title was later changed, though not before 
my contribution had been published ( Kommunist , no. 17, 1990). The 
head of the Department of Scientific Communism at a Soviet universi¬ 
ty told me how he proposed to handle his staff of thirty academics: ten 
could be fired, ten were old enough to be given retirement, and the 
remaining ten he felt were retrainable. 

The sophistication or complexity even of a true scientific theory have 
little bearing on its correctness, though they do appeal to some intellec¬ 
tual temperaments. The Ptolemaic geocentric apparatus was, for a mil¬ 
lennium and a half, the victor over the truer heliocentric view largely 
because of the greater intricacy of its epicycles, its glow of cleverness. 
Though incorrect, it remained at least coherent. Marxism was not only 
erroneous—it was self-contradictory. 

6 . 

Marxism was also attractive in that it provided (like other ideologies) 
automatic refutation of its critics. 

Marx and Marxists spoke much of the “false consciousness" of people 
whose arguments are only superficially intellectual, being (though they 
themselves are unaware of it) mere projections of class prejudice, and who 
thus believe themselves to be acting from religious or other motives while 
really driven by economic interests. Translated into the terms of the later- 
established Marxist regimes, this confirmed that all opposition was due to 
malignant class enmity, with which rational argument was in any case 
impossible or inadequate, and to which the only effective reply was force. 

The same concealment, or unconsciousness, of real motive postulat¬ 
ed by Marx can of course be applied to Marxism itself. Orwell coun¬ 
tered that Communists “pretended, perhaps . . . even believed," that 
they had taken power unwillingly and temporarily to bring in very soon 
a free human paradise—but that their real motive was power. 


Since Marxists took their theory to be science, the science of society, 
including history, sociology and economics, when this became the offi¬ 
cial view of the state it implied, and in fact resulted in, the substitution 
of Marxism for the prescientific gropings that had hitherto prevailed. In 
all the Marxist states, alternative views were suppressed, in academe as 
well as in society as a whole. And this led, of course, to a mental 
enslavement and degeneration of thought. Nor did this apply only to 
the subjects of Marxist dictatorship. It equally affected many others 
accepting the doctrine. As Lewis S. Feuer noted in his Ideology and the 
Ideologists, “Under no conditions whatever will the ideologist renounce 
his ideology. Thus the master of European Marxism, Georg Lukacs, 
declared in 1967 that even if every empirical prediction of Marxism 
were invalidated, he would still hold Marxism to be true.” 

There was yet another level of defense for Marxism—one much 
employed by Marx and Engels and still often put forward: criticism was 
deflected by the claim that it dealt only with “vulgar Marxism,” while its 
more sophisticated proponents had provided a variety of subtle reserva¬ 
tions, or, if not quite reservations, at least nuances. 


The Anarchist Bakunin suggested at the time that Marxists’ real aim was 
a “pedantocracy”: that is to say, a regime in which theoreticians—their 
own type of theoreticians—would be in charge: or, to put it another way, 
in which a political intelligentsia, unemployable in normal circumstances, 
took the positions of power. And indeed, in many countries there is still 
a large overproduction of people educated to be lawyers and administra¬ 
tors. The intellectual have-nots can only take the power posts by remov¬ 
ing the haves, so the incentive to revolution is obvious (their “false 
consciousness” as to such motives is equally understandable). 

But then, why be Marxists in particular? An important reason since 
1917 seems to have been that in most cases a Communist organization 
was in existence, well funded, ready for recruitment, and apparently pos¬ 
sessing a viable road to power. This is not to say that such recruitment 
was merely a vehicle to power. On the contrary. The young revolutionists 
truly accepted the Marxist-Leninist dogmas. Ethiopia might easily have 
in any case been taken over by brutal revolutionary officers, but the way 
they ruined the country’s agriculture was the result of the complete 
acceptance of poisonous doctrine. 

The Marxist Irruption: How and Why 



8 . 

The “science” was embodied, however, in Marxs economic and historical 
theory. The former is basic, in the sense that he viewed even conscious¬ 
ness as determined by the means of production. But apart from this sup¬ 
posedly scientific demonstration of the fundamentals of exploitation, his 
historico-political thought has provided the main momentum. 

Marx’s work made specific deductions; in Das Kapital he speaks of 
having discovered the “Natural Laws” of capitalist production, adding 
that “these laws worked things out with iron necessity towards 
inevitable results.” And Marx’s Marxism was indeed a scientific theory, 
in the sense that it made predictions which were falsifiable: that as the 
proportion of capital to labor in production increased, profit must 
(obviously) fall and wages decrease; that capitalism would operate as a 
constraint on production; that the industrial countries must become 
increasingly polarized between a small group of capitalists and a huge 
and increasingly impoverished proletariat; and that the latter must over¬ 
throw the former in a revolution. These predictions of Marx’s were not 
random suggestions, but were rigorously deduced from his whole analy¬ 
sis of the workings of the capitalist system. 

The Marxian theory of value is, in fact, not an abstraction. He seri¬ 
ously urged on many occasions that price fluctuated round “value” as 
determined by labor theory. For Marx, in the end, presented himself 
above all as an economist. And he himself would have conceded that 
without the supposedly “objective” support of his economic 
researchers, his social theories would have lacked all verification and 
intellectual respectability and would have been mere rhetoric. He 
proved, to his own satisfaction, that the class rift in modern times is 
rooted in the fact that all profit is extracted from the workers. 

The crux of Marxism in fact was this theory of “surplus value.” It 
has no evidential basis—argued at this level, profit can just as easily be 
defined as produced by capital, or by a conjunction of capital and labor. 
When in the late 1920s an attempt was made among Italian 
Communists to debate the theory, their leader Palmiro Togliatti (as one 
of his colleagues tells us) could not be brought to show any interest— 
the theory, he explained, was for the masses, not for economists. 

It is, indeed, no more than a way to give an apparently scientific and 
doctrinal form to the simple notion that the rich rob the poor. Now a 
German Doktor had proved it. 


Marx derived all the evils of “capitalism”—alienation, exploitation, 
crises, etc.—from “commodity” production, that is, from the market 
system. In fact, the whole history of the USSR testifies to a refusal to 
face the fact that a complex modern economy cannot operate without a 
market mechanism. Why (even leaving aside economic common sense) 
Marx thought that a bureaucrats decision was less alienating than the 
“unplanned” play of market forces is not clear. 

“Capitalism” is an economic term and can only be used to describe a 
whole social or political order on the assumption that such orders are 
thoroughly determined by their economic structures, as they are not. 
Similarly, the “capitalist” motivations are by definition the economic, 
not the moral or cultural or legal, ones. Of course, except among 
embezzlers and psychopaths, the individual “capitalist” is never moti¬ 
vated solely by economic considerations. “Total” economics (that is, 
capitalism pure and simple) has failed to prevail in Western economies. 
The “free market” is, for some reason, an image of economic anarchy. 
But it has never been free in the sense of not being bound by laws— 
laws against fraud and forgery, laws enforcing contracts—for such laws 
form the necessary framework of a properly operating market economy. 
It is a condition of the free market that trust must prevail between those 
engaged in commerce: they cannot be “cutthroat** in any usual sense. 

In fact, the really exploitative element in market capitalism emerges 
under two conditions. The first is when there is no law at all, as in trade 
with savage areas. The risk is then so great that profits are both high and 
unreliable, and the inducements to improve the margin by any means 
soon make trade barely distinguishable from piracy. The second is the 
situation in which capitalism is overregulated, where the state is able to 
divert the natural benefits of the market to its own monopolist nomi¬ 
nees or even into its own pockets. Again, the margin is minimal and the 
inducement to fraud is greater. In the extreme case where capitalism was 
actively illegal, as in the old Soviet Union, so that no mechanism existed 
to regulate (as against destroy) the market, trade was inevitably beset 
with bribery and blackmail. 

But Marxisms greatest success has been the demonizing of “capital¬ 
ism.” No one is likely to raise barricades under the flag of “capital¬ 
ism”—presumably the skull and crossbones. And its evils are constantly 
attacked, not only by conscious Marxists. No one, for example, would 
suggest South Korea as a messianic utopia. But when softhearted anti- 

The Marxist Irruption: How and Why 


capitalist academics of my acquaintance are faced with the question of 
why South Korea’s infant death rate is so astonishingly lower than that 
of socialist North Korea, they are at a great loss to grant any credit to 
the systemic economic difference. An extreme example of this sort of 
thing was a letter in the Washington Post (5 November 1996) from John 
Le Carre, saying that though Communism didn’t work, capitalism is in 
much of the world “a wrecking, terrible force,” displacing people and 
ruining lifestyles “with the same recklessness as Communism.” 

Indeed, the changes that are taking place the world over are in many 
ways disruptive (as Marx noted while accepting that such changes were 
“progressive”). But as ever the parallelism of these two “systems” is a fal¬ 
lacy. To make the best of, or to improve, the operation of the market is a 
genuine challenge, but it cannot be effected under un-sane categorization. 

If “capitalism” is preferable to some other economic forms, it is not 
because it is just, but because the injustices inherent in any real system 
are, in its case, understood to be such; that the exercisers of economic 
power never win anyone’s blind trust. When the economic rulers are 
nominees of “the people” and claim to be seen not as bureaucrats but as 
democracy incarnate, who can query them? 

Even at the level of Marxism itself, accepting its socioeconomic 
propositions, Marx has long since been refuted in practice on his own 
terms. As Engels wrote of the sixteenth-century revolutionist Thomas 
Miinzer: “The social transformation that he pictured in his fantasy was 
so little grounded in the then existing economic conditions, that the lat¬ 
ter were a preparation for a social system diametrically opposed to that 
of which he dreamt.” Marxism, in fact, fails under its own critique. 


In the circumstances, it may not seem surprising that Marx’s pro¬ 
nouncements are neither encompassing nor coherent; and that they are 
often self-contradictory, self-refuting, with his theory of historical 
development—slave-feudal-capitalist-socialist—being in effect, as has 
often been pointed out, negated by his later view of an “Asiatic” society 
outside the scheme. Indeed, Marxism does not have, and does not even 
pretend to have, any mechanism to explain the internal development of 
the social system it describes as “Asiatic.” In these areas of traditionalist 
despotism, under which the larger part of the world’s population lived 
for thousands of years, Marx quite explicitly and admittedly found no 


class conflict, in the absence of opposing groups categorizable as eco¬ 
nomic classes. (Change only came, as he puts it, when Western culture 
burst in on them: an unconscious illustration of Marx's Eurocentrism). 
But this is an extraordinary state of things. There is no law of geogra¬ 
phy which dictates that it would be impossible for all the inhabitable 
areas of the earth to lie in latitudes, and be subject to physical condi¬ 
tions, of the type that produced the Asian empires. But a theory of his¬ 
tory that even pretends to be comprehensive becomes absurd once such 
a point is admitted. (Indeed, how can any “rigorous” theory account for 
Britain's being an island, a fact that has certainly contributed most 
importantly to the worlds social and political development. Its insula¬ 
tion was the merest accident on any rational time scale, dating from 
some ten thousand years ago, a geological instant.) 

At best, the Marxist view accepts that all institutional and economic 
developments in the various countries of the world can meaningfully be 
ascribed to the four or five Marxist categories. The variety within soci¬ 
eties described as “feudal,” for example, are in reality far more striking 
than the points they have in common, as is the case with any study when 
particulars become more widely known. A whale may be called a fish 
only by an inadequately informed categorizer. 

The extent to which these Marxist notions penetrated our thought is 
remarkable. His division into slave, feudal and capitalist epochs in the 
West is commonly used, though feudalism in particular is a shaky 
enough concept. Marxist class analyses of England in the seventeenth 
century are still met with, though seldom among historians of the peri¬ 
od. These have shown class analysis to be thoroughly defective with 
respect to James Is reign. On a slightly different note, a recent book on 
the English Civil War notes that ten cavalier colonels had brothers or 
sons on the other side. As a recent historian puts it, the allegiances 
“arose from inclination, temperaments and other humours that will ever 
defy precise analysis” (P. R. Newman, in his The Old Service ). Similar 
points might be made about the American Revolution, with such well- 
known cases as Edmund Randolphs father, Benjamin Franklins son and 
Gouverneur Morris's brother. 

In many periods it has been shown that class struggle in the Marxian 
sense has hardly existed. For example, it is clear that in French villages in 
the early sixteenth century, though there were small elites of rich peas¬ 
ants, a mass of ordinary “plowmen" and a small set of manual laborers, 

The Marxist Irruption: How and Why ♦ 49 

the confrontations and struggles were those uniting the village against 
outside groups (the error is not a minor one, since it was almost exactly 
paralleled in Lenin’s, and later Stalin’s, positing a “class struggle” in the 
Russian village, which was a major element in their justification of ter¬ 
ror in the countryside). 

At a different level, historians like Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie have 
long since pointed out that the French Revolution was not in any com¬ 
prehensible sense one of capitalism against feudalism. As he says, the 
“feudal” and “capitalist” modes of production, “far from being antag¬ 
onistic, were moving together during the eighteenth century and put¬ 
ting up a united front against the peasant-smallholder family-farm 
economy,” which defeated both of them in the Revolution. In the 
towns it was, of course, different—but here it was not “the bour¬ 
geoisie” in general but a “legal” bourgeoisie, for some time far more 
important than the industrial and commercial, or “economic,” bour¬ 
geoisie. In fact, “class struggle” was not an adequate concept even 
where some such confrontation did indeed play a role. Thus Marxism 
and its offshoots’ attempt to reduce the whole broad scope of interhu¬ 
man relations to matters of hostility is defective. As Matthew Arnold 
wrote: “Culture is the eternal opponent of the two things which are 
the signal marks of Jacobinism—its fierceness and its addiction to an 
abstract system.” 

Research more profoundly damaging to the class concept has includ¬ 
ed analyses (both “left” and “right”) which show that anything like a 
specifically working-class “culture” differentiated from the general cul¬ 
ture only began to come into being in Britain in the early 1920s, and 
faded away within a few decades. 

What remains today of Marxism, once a large and ambitious struc¬ 
ture, is little more than this basic dogma that our society (and all others) 
is driven by unappeasable strife, in which one contestant must inevitably 
destroy the other. It was back in the 1840s that Marx announced this 
discovery, though the search for the supposed evidence for it took 
decades. His great point was that people had previously made all sorts of 
political, philosophical and other moves without realizing that their 
motive was class struggle, but that at last the truth was out. 

The Marxian attitude to this was odd. It might be thought that when 
unconscious causes of strife are brought to light the natural thing would 
be to subject them to conscious control and abate them. When 


Christianity identified Original Sin as a source of trouble, it did not say, 
'‘Well, now we know whats wrong, go ahead and indulge it.” Marx, on 
the other hand, sought none of the benefits of- his supposed new knowl¬ 
edge; he merely urged the side he put his money on to do its worst. 

10 . 

It is still occasionally said (e.g., by Eric Hobsbawm) that all serious 
approaches to history must be based on Marxisms breakthrough in 
understanding, on the grounds that Marxism provided a historical per¬ 
spective in the study of humanity (as if previous theories had uniformly 
failed to do so). But is a false perspective better than no perspective? Are 
highly distorting glasses better than short sight? At any rate, Hobs- 
bawms addiction to Marxism led him into many years of, if not unquali¬ 
fied approval of, then undisguised preference for, the Communist 
regimes. But the notion is false to the point of absurdity on several 
counts. First, the idea of political conflict among economic-interest 
groups was very far from new and was taken for granted by Thucydides. 
Second, conflict occurs between “interest” groups where the mutual 
uncongeniality cannot be called economic, except by fiddling with the 
evidence or exaggerating minimals. Third, cooperation or regulated com¬ 
petition among both economic and other interest groups has been as 
common as—more common than—irreconcilable conflict (particularly 
in the more advanced countries). 

It may be remarked that Marx and Engels wrote at a time when eco¬ 
nomic forces were unprecedentedly powerful and political ones very 
weak, at least in the countries they were chiefly concerned with. Since 
then political mechanisms more powerful than the social forces have 
been invented, and the wills of powerful dictatorships have been 
enforced against all the real wishes of society and in opposition to the 
needs of the economy. The epoch of Stalin, Mao and Hitler is the very 
last one to which a materialist conception of history, as the product of 
economic trends, could possibly be applied. 

The way in which Marxist or other schematic assumptions afflict all 
of us may be seen in the view (which I ignorantly shared) that in 
Roman times slavery inhibited technological development—machines 
being unnecessary when an unlimited source of human energy was avail¬ 
able. Peter Salway, in his new Roman volume of The Cambridge History of 
England , points out that sophisticated mill and mine machinery driven by 

The Marxist Irruption: How and Why ♦ jz 

waterpower was common in those times, and that the Romans were well 
aware of the poor productivity of slaves. He concludes: 

I see no reason to suppose that the Romans would not have used cheap 
mechanical power if it had been available nor any evidence to suggest that 
the failure to put to practical use the power of steam, of which the 
ancient world was aware, was due to anything more than the lack of those 
crucial inventions in the eighteenth century that made commercial steam 
engines a viable proposition. 


Marxism, and generally all theories stressing conflict as the center of 
historical development, also create their evidence by inflating anything 
resembling a riot or revolt into the central event of the period. Professor 
Toru Haga, mentioning a few peasant risings in eighteenth-century 
Japan, was asked why they hardly entered into his general account of the 
period. He replied that they were peripheral and atypical and were only 
widely bruited at present because of a doctrinally motivated Marxist 
search for events suited to that theory. The same, of course, could be 
said of English history. To read some writers, one would think that the 
nineteenth century consisted largely of the Peterloo Massacre, the 
Tolpuddle Martyrs and Bloody Sunday. All were exceptional rather than 
typical events, and even if they were not, they would contrast pretty 
markedly with experience in, for example, France. Six were killed in the 
Peterloo rioting; none of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, though they were all 
disgracefully victimized and “transported,” was actually martyred in the 
normal sense; while Bloody Sunday produced precisely one death, an 
accidental one. Indeed, the use of such a term for such an event shows a 
remarkable scraping of the barrel by those determined to find British 
parallels to Continental shenanigans. The total death toll in civil distur¬ 
bances in Britain over a century and a half can hardly be much over a 
hundred, or, to put it another way, the equivalent of a single busy after¬ 
noon on a Paris barricade. This search for, and exaltation of, armed 
clashes seems no more than a weak version of that patriotic romanti¬ 
cism about battles so much sneered at by people perfectly happy with 
this left-wing equivalent. 

Possession of, or by, the idea that one has final answers to all the 
problems of history and of society seems to lead to “final answer” dog- 


mas in other fields. There was and is a strong tendency among Marxists 
to accept pseudosciences. The mechanism seems to be related to the 
desire for complete solutions—which are, of course, more commonly 
found in the pseudosciences than in the sciences proper. 

Wilhelm Liebknecht, one of Marx’s most trusted followers after 
Engels himself, tells in his memoirs that Marx examined his skull with 
his fingers on their first meeting. Though not “as zealous a devotee” of 
phrenology as revolutionaries like Gustav Struve, “he believed in it to 
some extent,” even having “the phrenologist of the party” (that is, of 
the Communist League), Karl Pfaender, give Liebknecht a further and 
more professional check later. Fortunately, Pfaender did not find “any¬ 
thing which would have prevented my admission” into the League. 
Again, in 1866 Marx became enthusiastic about the theories of the 
adventurer Pierre Tremaux, who held that the distinctions between the 
races were attributable to the different soils on which they lived. 

An extraordinary array of officially endorsed pseudosciences attend¬ 
ed triumphant Marxism in the USSR, as we shall see. And in the early 
sixties the Maoists reverted to various ancient but implausible devices, 
such as the swallowing of tadpoles as a means of contraception. During 
the Cultural Revolution “bourgeois” acupuncture specialists were driven 
out in favor of inexperienced enthusiasts. A team of these used previ¬ 
ously “forbidden points” for sticking the needles in so effectively that a 
high proportion of deaf-mutes treated by this method were heard to 
shout “Long live Chairman Mao” (New China News Agency, 3 
November 1968). 

Not all Marxists would have been capable of such powerful idiocy. But 
to some degree Marxism itself may be blamed. First of all, the principle 
of accommodating science to a particular metaphysic rather than leaving 
it to act autonomously seems bound to produce distortion. Second, the 
notion that Marxism is a basic universal science leads to the condition in 
which many people professing it feel that they are already fully educated 
and, in effect, capable of judging any subsidiary studies without adequate 
humility or effort. Hence, perhaps, part of its attraction. 

These notions may also tend to show that those who seek cure-all 
formulae for reconstructing society are temperamentally inclined 
towards "unorthodox” fads in other fields. This in turn may tend to cast 
doubt on the validity of their political-economic analyses. 

It was Jonathan Swift who said that the most positive men are the 

The Marxist Irruption: How and Why ♦ s j 

most credulous. There are temperaments that will always seek absolutes, 
and no argument could persuade them otherwise. The practical problem 
is to see that their notions do not get too widely accepted. 

12 . 

Marxism thus, as was noted even at the time, had two different, even 
contradictory aspects. It was science, predicting the way things were 
objectively bound to turn out (and this gave credibility to Marxists who 
called for patience and maneuver). It was also revolutionism, subjective¬ 
ly urging the militant to fight. 

By the end of the nineteenth century, the Marxist predictions of a 
capitalist failure to expand production, of a fall in the rate of profit, a 
decrease in wages, of increasing proletarian impoverishment and the 
resulting approach of revolutionary crisis in the industrial countries had 
all proved false. 

But Marxism had already become the accepted doctrine of a number 
of key working-class parties. Rather than abandon it, the more realistic 
social democrats “revised” it. Eduard Bernstein and others in effect 
accepted both that the “laws” had failed and that “revolution” was 
unnecessary, but still called the residue Marxism. This was enough for 
the practical members, in particular for the workers as such; and the 
residual claim to Marxist philosophy appeased at least some of the 
intellectuals. Though the “socialist” and etatiste element in Marxist (and 
pre-Marxist) thought still resulted in imprudent social policies, the larg¬ 
er Idea had been to an important degree tamed. 

A large section of those under Marxist influence was thus reclaimed 
for nonrevolutionary civic society. Even they, it is true, stood to varying 
degrees for the principle of class struggle—in any case vaguely implicit 
in representing workers' interests. More doctrinally, though less 
inevitably, the idea of socialism became a mark of the working-class 
movement in Europe (though only peripherally and briefly in the 
United States). In their inspirational aspect, the words “socialism” and 
“communism” convey an economy without sin. In the old days, and 
partly through Marxist jargon, the active definition was easy—a society 
without capitalists. Unfortunately, since then a number of societies 
without capitalists have been created in various countries, and it would 
take a word fetishist of terrific obstinacy to maintain that these were 
indeed without sin. 


The command economy got confused with the idea of a just and 
democratic social order when the concept of the “nationalisation of the 
means of production, distribution and exchange” was adopted as the 
official aim of the Labour Party (though the Trade Unions onlv includ¬ 
ed it to please their nonworker intellectual groups like the Fabians). 
Different ideas about providing social control—such as guild socialism 
or syndicalism—became unfashionable. It was later realized that nation¬ 
alization is quite compatible with private ownership of the state itself, 
by a single entrepreneur (e.g., Stalin) or a small board of directors (e.g., 
Brezhnev and company). 

Such programmatic socialist ideas had already been tried out, unsuc¬ 
cessfully, in the first months of the 1848 Revolution in France. When 
Robert Owen asked Lord Brougham to put before Queen Victoria, 
through the Prince Consort, a proposal for a commission on the theorv 
of Socialism, Albert replied to Brougham: 

I have felt that I could with safety lay Mr Owen’s memorial before the 
Queen as by so doing I commit neither Her Majesty nor myself to any 
expression of opinion upon the subject matter. I think you could, as from 
yourself, tell your old friend, that it is hardly by the appointment of a 
Commission to enquire into the Theory of Socialism that we can hope to 
arrive at a satisfactory result, but that the value of its principles could 
alone be tested by their practical adaptation. Such practical experiments 
have unfortunately hitherto been found to be exceedingly expensive to the 
Nation which tried them. However, one upon a large scale is now being 
carried on in France, which I think might be considered as a “Monster 
Commission” for the instruction of the rest of Europe. 

We have had more experience since. 

13 . 

It is clear that Lenin, who naturally attacked Bernstein’s revision of 
Marx with some virulence, did so not because he felt Bernstein to be 
wrong but because he feared he might be right. Lenin concluded that 
the working-class movement, unless guarded by a “socialist vanguard,” 
would become petty bourgeois. And he defined the vanguard as full¬ 
time professional revolutionaries. 

In effect, Lenin saw that history was not behaving in accordance with 
Marxist theory, so he decided to force it to do so by subjective effort. 

The Marxist Irruption: How and Why ♦ jj 

like some phrenologist finding one of his subjects lacking the right 
bumps and producing them by clouting him on the head. 

But though Lenin in practice gave up the “scientific” context of 
Marxism, he still maintained that it was an infallible doctrine. He even, 
in his Marxism and Empiriocriticistn , undertook philosophical polemics over 
its most metaphysical content. That is, the Idea was still his motive 

The Communist acceptance of Marxism as dogma, with sacred texts, 
led to such oddities as the official Stalinist printing and distribution in 
the West, as elsewhere, of Engels s Germany: Revolution and Counterrevolution 
(checked on by Marx, too). In citing it here, we are not so much con¬ 
cerned with the general aberrations to which Marxist analysis was and 
remained prone, as with a particular and crucial blind spot—the ques¬ 
tion of nationality. In it we read that “Poles and Czechs are essentially 
an agricultural race”; that in East European cities manufacturers are 
Germans and traders Jews—whom he accounts as more German than 
otherwise, their native tongue being “a horribly corrupted German”; 
that German culture, too, was now prevailing and, together with diplo¬ 
matic and military pressure, ensuring “the slow but sure advance of 
denationalisation by social developments.” “The dying Czech nationali¬ 
ty,” even if continuing to speak their own tongue, “could only exist 
henceforth as part of Germany.” 

It is not only the sponsorship of this and similar material by the 
regime of a—Slavic—Moscow that makes it worth quoting. Indeed, 
that would be no more than a demonstration of the idolatry of texts 
common to communities of closed minds. The excerpt also gives us 
other insights. First, the shallow quality of thought is revealed, but even 
more, its complete, and by now one would have thought embarrassing, 
misevaluation of major historical processes—the area in which 
Marxism submits itself for judgment. Furthermore, its thoughts well 
illustrate the overlap between socialist and nationalist ideas which, in 
another context, contributed to the National Socialist experience. 

By the test of serious intellectual persuasiveness, Marx was hardly a 
“great thinker,” though he often appears as such in low-level Western 
academic curricula. This is hard to reconcile with the fact that outside 
his sect few serious philosophers accepted his philosophy; few econo¬ 
mists accepted his economics; few historians accepted his theories of 
history. We are here speaking, in doctrinal terms, of Marxism proper. 


As such observers as Raymond Aron and Ernest Gellner have pointed 
out, there are fashions in what is still called Marxism in the West which 
are, in the latters words, "‘neo-Hegelian, existentialist, phenomenologi¬ 
cal, structuralistic, etc.” and “unintelligible.” Here the claim to Marxism 
is little more than verbal—a dash of garlic in the casserole. We can note 
in France, even in the early stages when the dogma still to some extent 
clung, such variations on it as Simone de Beauvoirs argument that the 
Marquis de Sade was “a great moralist” because he “passionately expos¬ 
es the bourgeois hoax which consists in erecting class interests into uni¬ 
versal principles.” 

The intellectual and practical failure of Marxism is by now reason¬ 
ably well understood in a general way, and contrary views are mainlv 
explainable in terms of the—much precedented—persistence of obso¬ 
lete notions. Still, that persistence remains a dangerous and destructive 
element in many minds, from Pyongyang to Peru. Moreover, it still 
affects the mental atmosphere even in circles that repudiate it at a con¬ 
scious level. 



The Nation: 

Hope an d Hysteria 

(Nationality, Nationalism, Fascism, 
National Socialism) 


R evolutionary Marxism was not the only absolutist ideology to 
poison the minds of the twentieth century. The concept or feel¬ 
ing of nation and nationality has had, and still has, good as well 
as bad manifestations. These latter have been, and to a great extent still 
are, dangerous and devastating, and closely related to the other mental 
distortions of ideology. But neither the good nor the bad, nor their per¬ 
mutations, are to be understood except in the whole historical context. 

2 . 

Nations as we now know them only started to come into existence some 
five or six centuries ago. In the Middle Ages allegiance was local, to the 
village, the town, the feudal lord, the King—the latter not necessarily of 
an ethnic realm; and beyond that to a larger, supposedly universal, enti¬ 
ty—the Empire, Christendom, Islam. In Europe the official language of 
the entity was not the vernacular but Latin—as was Arabic in Islam. 

The emergence of nationhood took several different forms. In 
England, and certain other countries, the interplay of social and other 
strata gradually developed in a series of ad hoc adjustments to the com- 
munity-as-a-whole. The nation, conscious of its existence, evolved 
before the idea of a nation did. The state did not create the nation, but 
merely came to represent it. 


In most of Europe, on the other hand, the national idea preceded its 
realization in a national state, which only came into being as the result 
of revolutions or wars. 

In France an older—though still immature—national consciousness 
was given full form by the Revolution. The successes of England in sci¬ 
ence and commerce and even war, in contrast to the French failures, 
were part of the mix. That something went wrong among the French 
intellectuals is clear enough, and can be summarized as their having mis¬ 
understood and absolutized the scientific and political practices of the 
more advanced country—just as the Russian intelligentsia was to do a 
hundred years later. They thus felt empowered to create a utopia in the 
name of the People and the Nation, as well as to demonize all opposi¬ 
tion in the name of Reason. 

Before the Revolution French peasants would not ordinarily think of 
themselves primarily as “French.” It was the Revolution, the Republic 
One and Indivisible, that consciously created or aroused the Nation. 
Nationality, not only in France, was henceforward for a long time 
almost always associated with progressive or revolutionary-democratic 
views and politics. But it was, as it was not in England or Scotland or 
Switzerland, the state that in effect brought it into being, and that 
formed it, administered it and represented it from above. 

In Germany, too, the idea of the nation preceded the nation. From 
early in the nineteenth century, intellectual activists pursued the nation¬ 
alist aim far more narrowly and obsessively than had been the case in 
French Revolutionary thought. Though this movement sometimes had 
Jacobin-style manifestations, it was not the left but an evolving political- 
military-philosophical establishment that created Germany. German 
nationality after the debacle of a liberal and revolutionary effort in 
1848 was taken over and realized by the Prussian monarchy nearly 
twenty years later. Once again this was “from above.” The new Second 
Reich was an extraordinary chimera. On the one hand, it had what has 
been called a pseudoconstitutionalism with a party system and parlia¬ 
ment, within which the various political tendencies were given freeish 
run and at the same time assimilated to the imperial order. On the other 
hand, real power remained with the Kaiser and his militaristic and irre¬ 
sponsible coteries, who channeled the national feeling into war. (The 
long-held ideas that World War I came about through accidental con¬ 
catenations, or that it was due to commercial rivalries, has been aban- 

The Nation: Hope and Hysteria ♦ J9 

doned by most historians, and it is now clear enough that the Kaisers 
regime was inherently headed for war). 

After defeat in 1918, the German constitutional parties emerged as, 
for a time, in possession of much of the real power. And with luck a 
democratic evolution might have taken place. But clearly its basis was 
shaky and shallow. 

Above all, as George Lichtheim notes, the new style of nationalism 
that opposed it “had its strongholds in the schools and universities,” 
unlike in the French situation, where the teachers were predominately of 
the left. Hitlers first cadres, as he himself said, were officers and—stu¬ 

It is only fairly recently that a Western country like Germany can be 
said to have qualified as a mature nation-state. So it may be thought 
that we can hardly expect early evolutions in less “civilized” areas. This 
may not be the way to look at it; for there are regions where the negative 
type of national evolution which took place in Germany does not 
appear to be the natural direction—that, as it were, they are farther 
back, but on a better road. 

3 . 

Other European nations are also of comparatively recent origin in their 
present forms. 

In Hungary, for example, the official language was Latin. The 
Hungarian Kingdom was not Magyar: and the ethnic identification of 
Hungary with Magyardom only emerged in the second quarter of the 
nineteenth century. 

In the Balkans, Western maps of that time show “various Slavonic 
tribes.” Only towards the middle of the century do we find—for exam¬ 
ple—a real Bulgarian national consciousness. More broadly, Anne 
Applebaum notes of the whole of Eastern Europe: 

There were, until recently, no nations in the borderlands—or at least no 
nation-states in the sense that we know them now. There were the nobility 
and the invaders—the Poles and Russians and Germans and Tartars and 
Turks—who sometimes changed roles, defeating one another, only to be 
defeated in turn. There were the peasants: the Estonians and the Livonians 
who spoke Baltic tongues, the many descendants of the Slavic tribes— 
Volhinians, Podolians, Polesians, Galicians, Braclavians, now known as 


Ukrainians or Belarusians. Jews, more Jews than were found anywhere else 
in the world. Scattered among all of these peoples there were others: 
colonies of Armenians, Greeks, and Hungarians, Tartars and Karaims, the 
descendants of war prisoners or merchants or heretics or criminals. 

In the eighteenth century, if a borderland peasant were asked about his 
nationality, he would probably have replied “Catholic" or “Orthodox" 
or perhaps simply used the Polish word tutejszy —which means “one of 
the people from here." It was, she adds, in the nineteenth century that 
the children of the tutejszy began to assimilate national ideas from the 
cities and the intellectuals. 

Russian “nationalism," too, in the usual sense of the word, was also a 
fairly recent development. The old Russian Empire was not seen as an 
ethnic, or even cultural, entity, but merely as—an empire: Rossiiskii, the 
word we translate as “Russian" in speaking of the Russian Empire, does 
not have the ethnic connotation of Russkii. It stands for the imperium 
itself, Russian and Orthodox in content, no doubt, but only partly so 

It is true that the earlier (and gradual) Russian annexation of 
Ukraine had led to the suppression of Ukrainian cultural institutions, 
but this was at least in part because Ukrainian was regarded—as indeed 
it was by Lenin—as merely a peasant dialect of Russia; and even here 
full Russification only came later. 

The Russian state was of course, more than almost any other, found¬ 
ed on a principle opposed to citizenship in the normal sense. A British 
journalist (in the New Statesman') quoted a Soviet official as remarking to 
him in 1971: 

Our country has no civil tradition. The taste for association, for organising 
communal life together, for getting to know each other and taking decisions 
together, never really existed in Russia. Between the czar and the moujik 
there was nothing; equally between one moujik and another there was noth¬ 
ing except for essential personal relationships. We were and we remain a 
huge body, colossal even, but shapeless and deprived of articulation, of that 
political fabric on which the modern states of Europe were built. 

The feeling of nationality that arose in Russia was thus distorted, like 
much else in that unfortunate country, by its particular state form. 

The Nation: Hope and Hysteria ♦ 61 


In general, ethnicity, in the sense of language-cum-tradition, has in 
recent generations been the accepted basis for nationality, the national 
state. This has settled down in Western Europe but is still giving trouble 
in Eastern Europe, and has great potential for harm in areas where eth¬ 
nicity has not yet emerged as a decisive form of self-identification, on 
this or any other basis. Its peaceful development remains the central fea¬ 
ture of all aspiration to tolerable nationhood in our time. 

On the other hand, “self-determination’* has to face the difficulty 
that however the borders are drawn, scores of millions of people are, 
and will be, in states of which they are not the central nationality. Any 
solution implies, again, a great deal of mutual tolerance and coopera¬ 
tion not now often available; and international enforcement where not. 
As Elie Kedourie has written, self-determination, like other simple 
ideas, was accepted as a doctrine. 

We should not, indeed, take it for granted that cultural self-con¬ 
sciousness, even linguistically supported, necessarily produces “national¬ 
ism/' I remember an interview in London Magazine with Dylan Thomas, 
Welshness incarnate. This was at a time more verbally puritanical than 
ours, and the interviewer reported that he had asked Thomas his views 
on Welsh nationalism and that “his answer consisted of three words, 
two of which were ‘Welsh nationalism.’ ,, 

Still, in many areas archaic tribal loyalties and hatreds persisted in 
only inadequately eroded form into the present day. But even then they 
did not, on the whole, acquire anything like their present virulence until 
the first half of this century. As Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan has 
pointed out in his book Pandemonium ; there was interethnic hostility all 
over Eastern Europe, with occasional massacres and pogroms; but nev¬ 
ertheless different “racial” groups coexisted until a couple of genera¬ 
tions ago. “Ethnic cleansing,” even though certain types of nationalists 
intermittently indulged in it, was never the policy of a state, nor the 
whole practice of populations. 

Poles, Jews, Germans, Ukrainians, Russians lived by the millions in a 
vague general hostility. But only with the “scientific” anti-Semitism of 
the last years of the nineteenth century, did anti-Semitism become a 
program, an Idea; and even then it was sporadic. The Russian Civil War 
saw pogroms on a large scale, still mainly in the tradition of ancient 
tribal or religious or class hatreds. But until the 1930s there were still 


many Jewish towns and villages all over Eastern Europe; and it is said 
that one could drive in a cart from Vienna to the Sea of Azov and stay 
in a German village every night. 

The Nazis, when they invaded the Soviet Union, did not at first find 
it difficult sometimes to incite the local peasantry in razzias against 
Jewish settlements. But they complained that apathy would then ensue, 
and that true genocidal operations did not gain support. 


In spite of the differences of approach, we should note that nationalist 
and Marxist extremes of thought were similar in origin. As Leszek 
Kolakowski puts it ( Commentary , May 1983), “In many respects the 
socialist critique [of nineteenth-century societies" clearly converged with 
attacks coming from reactionary romanticism and from emerging 
nationalist ideologies.” 

Again, both elements looked back as well as forward, claiming the 
past as well as the future. Pursuing this tradition, the National 
Socialists' historical mvths sometimes directly overlapped those of the 
Communists: both saw the peasant rebellions in sixteenth-century 
Germany as predecessors of their own revolutions. One of the leading 
heroes of Engels’s The Peasant War in Germany , Florian Geyer, had an SS 
division named for him. 

Totalitarian absolutisms in fact developed from revolutionary pop¬ 
ulisms. Unlike the older despotisms, the new movements required this 
identification with “the people,” “the masses.” The overwhelming claim 
of the collective to the individual’s allegiance thus emerged as the basis 
not only of Communism but also of Fascism and National Socialism. 
Like Communism, once in power these subordinated the individual to 
the State, as representing the Community. Community was of course 
differently defined under the two ideologies, in spite of resemblances in 
the actual practice of the regimes; and it is in some such context as this 
that we can seek part of the difference between the variants of political 

It was only with the coming of World War I that Mussolini, hitherto 
a leading figure in Italian left-wing socialism, transferred the notion of 
mass identification with a class to mass identification with a nation. The 
submergence of the individual and of relations between individuals, and 
the destruction of noncentralized civic phenomena, remained the pro- 

The Nation: Hope and Hysteria ♦ 6j 

gram (both Lenin and Trotsky said that only Mussolini could have led 
an Italian revolution). It was argued by such sophisticated exponents of 
Fascism as Giovanni Gentile that the individual best expresses himself 
as part of mass experience. 

But for Mussolini the nation was not defined by ethnic dogma 
(Italian Fascism only becoming anti-Semitic under German influence in 
the 1930s). For the Nazis, Blutgefiihl[ the instinctual and archaic motiva¬ 
tions, were pushed to the fore, so that the sane feeling of patriotism was 
distorted into a raging racialism transcending civilized morality. For the 
Communists, it was extreme “rationalism,” reliance on supposedly per¬ 
fect theory, that transcended, in principle at least, the natural affections 
for country or family. But reliance on reason alone is itself irrational. It 
neglects the instinctual or deep-set elements of the real human being. 
Thus the distinction between the National Socialists and the 
Communists in terms of one overstating the instinctual and the other 
the rational is over sharp. As Chesterton remarked, a lunatic is one who 
has lost everything except his reason. The result is paranoia. It is notori¬ 
ous how rational paranoiacs sometimes appear to be. 

National Socialist ideologizing was more than its crude and simple 
racialism. The central message, inculcated on a massive scale in the 
press, in Party gatherings, in universities and in schools, was the new 
identification of the German individual with the nation and the state, in 
a higher mode than that of the older society, transcendental, mystical, 
scientific and philosophical. If we fail to take this into account, we miss 
the central drive of National Socialism. And this was what constituted 
its mass appeal to Germans, including much of the intelligentsia. 

For, as we know, Fascism and National Socialism did not lack intel¬ 
lectual supporters. Not only was Gentile a serious philosopher, but he 
was also a devoted Fascist until killed in 1944 by adherents of a differ¬ 
ent interpretation of Hegel. Heidegger, whatever one may think of his 
work, fully supported the National Socialists. 

Fascism and National Socialism relied, as we have said, on the social 
pseudoscience of the late nineteenth century—not in quite as sophisti¬ 
cated a form as that of the Marxists, but still enough to gain the mili¬ 
tant allegiance of, for example, two German Nobel Prize winners in 
physics. (These ideas had also overlapped with trends in “progressive” 
thought, as with the progressive H. G. Wells's well-known comment 
that the “backward” races would disappear as humanity went forward.) 


6 . 

Above all, as Leszek Kolakowski puts it, there was the fact that ‘no 
modern society can dispense with a principle of legitimacy, and in a 
totalitarian society, this legitimacy can only be ideological. Total power 
and total ideology embrace each other/’ 

Without this transcendent justification, such natural human charac¬ 
teristics as pity, laziness and compromise might have intervened. As 
Hitler said, without ideology violence could not be relied on. On the 
moral and human side, a basic dogma shared with Marx’s is that unap¬ 
peasable strife is the driving force of our society, and of all others yet 

As the late Hugh Seton-Watson, dean of British Sovietology, noted, 
Hitlers Nazis were “fanatics with an ersatz religion” who rejected not 
only Christianity but also traditional morality as such. He adds, “Moral 
nihilism is not only the central feature of National Socialism, but also 
the common factor between it and Bolshevism.” 

But identification with the masses was in all these cases more than a 
mental generalization. It also, obviously, involved a psychological mech¬ 
anism—of the sort Kierkegaard refers to when he writes that 

people flock together, in order to feel themselves stimulated, enflamed 
and ausser sick The scenes on the Blocksberg are the exact counterparts of 
this demoniacal pleasure, where the pleasure consists in losing oneself in 
order to be volatilised into a higher potency, where being outside oneself 
one hardly knows what one is doing or saying, or who or what is speaking 
through one, while the blood courses faster, the eyes turn bright and star¬ 
ing, the passions and lusts seething. 

Everywhere we come across the ease with which people passed from 
Communism to what were in theory its most virulent enemies— 
Fascism and National Socialism. Several Italian Fascist leaders, like 
Bombacci, had held positions in the Comintern—as had Jacques Doriot 
in France, who even led a French pro-Nazi military formation on the 
Eastern Front in World War II. 

Hitler himself said that Communists far more easily became Nazis 
than Social Democrats did. On another occasion he remarked, “the 
Reds we had beaten up became our best supporters,” a point also noted 
by others. A remarkable firsthand example is given by Patrick Leigh 

The Nation: Hope and Hysteria ♦ 6j 

Fermor in A Time of Gifts, his famous account of his walk across Europe 
as a penniless eighteen-year-old in 1934. In a German workmens bar 
late one night he made friends with a group of young factory hands just 
off a late shift. One of them offered to put him up in a family attic. 
There he found what seemed to be “a shrine of Hitlerism”—flags, 
photographs, posters, slogans, emblems. His new friend laughingly said 
he should have seen it last year—all “Lenin and Stalin and Workers of 
the World Unite.” He and his friends were Communists and used to 
beat up Nazis in street fights. Then, “suddenly,” he had realized that 
Hitler was right, and he and his friends were now SA men. “I tell you, I 
was astonished how easily they all changed sides,” he said. 

The more recent extreme left, of course, incorporated the irrational 
element of Nazism. It was the Red Brigades Ulrike Meinhof who said 
at her trial, “Auschwitz meant that six million Jews were killed, and 
thrown onto the waste-heap of Europe for what they were: money-Jews 
r Geldjudenf (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 15 December 1972). We may 
note, too, that in the Khmer revolution the Communist leaders declared 
that “in Kampuchea there is one nation and one language, the Khmer 
language. From now on the various nationalities do not exist in 
Kampuchea.” The victims, such minorities as the Chams, were subject to 
decrees like “The Cham mentality is abolished.” 

These may be taken to mark a final convergence of the Communist 
and Nationalist Ideas. 

As to the detritus of the old-style ideologies, we have seen how they 
were for a long time prevalent among the political intelligentsia in the 
underdeveloped countries, taking on a “nationalist” hue. It was some 
years ago that George Lichtheim, himself a committed socialist, rather 
tartly concluded (in his A Short History of Socialism ): 

In the populist ideology (which is eternally the same under every sky and 
in every clime) “the people” is seen as a body of virtuous toilers con¬ 
fronted by a handful of native and foreign exploiters whom it is the 
Party’s (or the Leaders) duty to expel or repulse, so that the nation may 
accomplish its destiny. Thus nationalism is equated with socialism, the 
community is seen as essentially classless, and the ruling elite appears as 
the historical incorporation of the General Will, even though it may never 
go to the trouble of actually consulting the people under its control as to 
their real desires. Maoism, Castroism and “African Socialism” constitute 


different variants of this peculiar ideology. The differences are important, 
but the intellectual content is in every case pretty much the same. As for 
the effectiveness of this creed, an ideology that promises people both the 
defence of their (tribal or national) traditions and painless economic 
growth under conditions of social equality and justice for all will never 
lack an audience. 

This is not so true today, but it retains too much of its validity. 


It follows from all this that the evolution of viable nations or other such 
cultures adequate to participate in a true international community is 
not to be achieved without time and trouble. There remain ethnic and 
other groups with “memberships” of millions who may become focuses 
of nationalist movements, whether balanced or extreme or both. The 
future of much of the world has not vet declared itself. 

Our, and every sane persons, overriding priority is a peaceful world, 
or at a minimum a world in which major wars are prevented and 
weapons of mass destruction are not used. To call the problem “inter¬ 
national” is apt not only in its obvious connotation but also in the sense 
that the real world today consists of an array of independent, if some¬ 
times partially interdependent, states, most of which we usuallv caLl 

Internationalism suggests an attitude to the world based on mutual 
accord between nations. It is or has been faced with two main problems: 
there are nationalisms that have been wholly, or largely, incapable of 
accepting such cooperation; and also there are supposed internation¬ 
alisms that are in principle against nationality as such. The supranation¬ 
al world-state idea, urged bv many rational liberals for a century or so, is 
not plausible in any but a verv long run, and certainly any excessive 
haste, or attempt to impose it by fiat, would produce strong and violent 
resistance. It could only emerge over a very long period of concord 
among its components. Its meretricious immediate attraction is as a 
quick-fix “Idea.” 

National feeling is natural. It is hardly a matter of choice. Everyone 
is born into a culture or ethnicity (and those who repudiate it usually 
become, with equally strong feelings, no more than the quislings of 
some other grouping). Orwell calls all such allegiances, including that of 

The Nation: Hope and Hysteria ♦ 67 

allegiance to a culture hostile to ones own nation, ‘‘nationalisms” in 
that they contain irrational devotion to a group idea. 

The malign nationalisms seen today are only in part a reversion to 
primitive gang loyalties, but in part a distortion of reasonable national 
feeling into the ideological absolute of identification we have spoken of 

This is not to say that national sentiment can ever be entirely without 
some hostility to, or at least solidarity against, other nations. It sees 
itself, at least to some extent, in terms of “we” as against the “they” 
who are not among its membership. This can be, and often is, restrained 
in a reasonably mild and unhostile form. Attempts to eliminate it 
entirely by decree or by spurious or premature internationalism can 
hardly succeed. As with all our problems, it is a matter of adjustment, 
not perfection. 

The world can be seen as containing evolved nation-states and states 
which, even if in some cases ethnically or territorially based, are not yet 
mature components of an international order. Obviously, the national 
“sovereign” state has not proved a marked success in a number of 
areas—Somalia, for example, where there was not even any ethnic prob¬ 
lem (as against class and gangs). Then there are what amount to pirate 
states, in effect not recognizing (though sometimes constrained to 
observe) any rules of international behavior: Iraq, Iran, North Korea, 
Libya and so on. With, in some cases, the prospect of or the actuality of 
making or obtaining nuclear weapons. 

These have to be coped with urgently over the interim, but in the 
long or medium run a really stable international order is possible only 
on a basis of adequate nations and national states. 

8 . 

It is not so much that “democracy” as such is incapable of aggression, 
as that only states which represent rather than repress internal variety, 
which are themselves based on consensuality, which tolerate divergent 
cultures and ideas, which are not themselves enslaved to unquestioned 
dogma, are likely to have a reasonably cooperative attitude on the inter¬ 
national scene. In the West the old “irredenta” wars seem to be over. 
This is not the case elsewhere, and the last thing the world needs is a 
repetition of the alternate excesses of annexation that beset Europe over 
nearly two centuries. This again implies insistence on the acceptance of 


borders not wholly satisfactory to any. And this can only be done by 
encouragement of the moderate and enforcement on the immoderate. 

Nations must subsist within an international community 7 , just as 
individuals must live within a particular society. This sort of general 
remark has often been made, and what it amounts to is that in spite of a 
reasonable autonomy in each case, there are actions between nations, as 
between individuals, which cannot be tolerated. We have not yet reached 
the stage where an effective “International law” operates. But we are 
now, in principle, in a position to reach it. 

The inescapable conclusion seems to be that the more mature 
nations, which are also in general the most powerful, have an interest in 
promoting proper nationhood everywhere, while also in preventing 
threats to peace that arise in the meantime. Peace, in this context, is not 
a vague general aspiration. There are states that cannot possibly be seen 
as members of a peaceful world community, and that, as we have said, in 
some cases have, or soon will have, nuclear arms. And there are minor 
aggressions of little apparent importance, but which it is in our interest 
to prevent or defeat, if only to discourage others. 

All this presupposes a reasonably united will among the evolved 
nations. This is not unachievable. But it hardly now exists. 

Even as to that united will, we should not imagine that the developed 
democracies themselves are identical in every respect. It is not a matter 
of cooperation between a set of discrete but undifferentiated entities. In 
his England, Your England\ George Orwell comments: “One must admit 
that the divisions between nation and nation are founded on real differ¬ 
ences of outlook. Till recently it was thought proper to pretend that all 
human beings are very much alike, but in fact anyone able to use his eyes 
knows that the average of human behaviour differs enormously from 
country to country. Things that could happen in one country could not 
happen in another.” 

This is true, as Orwell implies, even among countries at about the 
same level of political development. 

When one argues against excess devotion to “the nation,” one is not 
thereby opposed to allegiance to such polities; when one argues against 
excessive identification with a particular ethnic or other group within a 
society, one is not denying all allegiance to such groups. 

The basic problem is not so much the sentiment of nationality but the 
Idea of the nation. 

The Nation: Hope and Hysteria ♦ 69 


A fearful example is Yugoslavia. Recent events there are clearly based on 
older enmities. Nevertheless, here, too, the nations or groups concerned 
had lived in no more than a smoldering and occasional hostility for cen¬ 
turies. The savage Serbian policy of ethnic cleansing is a recent develop¬ 
ment (though prefigured by the Nazi-style wartime Pavelic government 
in Croatia). The Serbian leaders, and Milosevic himself, are mostly ex- 
Communists who thus transformed their earlier totalist ideology into 
‘‘nationalism” in the worst sense. 

Meanwhile, it is important to note that the outburst of nationalist 
extremism in Serbia was not spontaneous but, on the contrary, incited in 
the most calculating and cynical fashion by the Milosevic regime. The 
use of racial persecution had indeed been seen in the Balkans in the early 
1980s, when the Bulgarian Communist chief Todor Zhivkov launched a 
massive Bulgarization campaign against the Turkish minority. Previously 
there had been virtually no trouble between them and the Bulgarian 
majority. It was created solely from above, and the damage is only now 
being repaired. And this is a positive sign and an indication of hope. 

The ideologizing of nationality attitudes elsewhere is, as ever, prov¬ 
ing destructive both physically and psychologically. It goes, moreover, 
with a tendency to ethnic “Balkanization” within countries until lately 
more or less assimilative or unitive. (As I write, we see another willful 
creation of ethnic confrontation in the Algerian schism with the 
Berbers.) Nor should we forget that different perspectives are to be 
found in different countries, some favorable, others not. 


That traditional national cultures are very different one from another 
has often only been accepted in a superficial way, both in theory and in 
practice. It was, for example, held—and still often is—that the institu¬ 
tion of a free market would everywhere automatically produce a 
Western-style ‘‘Economic Man”—an illusion perhaps now dispelled by 
the past few years of Russia's experience. As David S. Landes has shown 
in his recent The Wealth and Poverty of Nations , ‘‘If we learn anything from 
the history of economic development, it is that culture makes all the 

Another commonlv held tenet, as we have said, is that the creation of 
the right institutions is in itself the key to political and politico-eco- 


nomic development. In the long run, this certainly has a positive effect. 
But in his deeply researched Making Democracy Work , Robert D. Putnam 
has unarguably shown (in the case of the continuing differences in civic 
attitudes in the provinces of Italy) that it can be a remarkably slow 

In the case of Latin America, the Alliance for Progress, launched 
under the Kennedy administration, was based on a supposedly scientific 
view of the nature of the original economic “takeoff ” into sustained 
growth in countries like Britain. It was to “transform the American 
Continent.” That not much of it is left is due to its simplistic assump¬ 
tions and its failure to take into account the full cultural milieu, as a 
number of Latin American scholars warned at the time, and has lately 
been examined clearly by Claudio Veliz (in his The New World of the Cothic 
Fox). He quotes, on the whole Latin American problem, Mario Vargas 
Llosas comment that such approaches are doomed 

to be ephemeral unless they are preceded or accompanied by a reform of 
our customs and ideas, of the whole complex system of habits, knowl¬ 
edge, images and forms that we understand by “culture.” The culture 
within which we live and act in Latin America is neither liberal nor is it 
altogether democratic. We have democratic governments, but our institu¬ 
tions, our reflexes and our mentalidades are very far from being democratic. 
They remain populist and oligarchic, or absolutist, collectivistic or dog¬ 
matic, flawed by social and racial prejudices, immensely intolerant with 
respect to political adversaries, and devoted to the worst monopoly of all, 
that of the truth. 

In fact, the hundreds of years of the closed (and bureaucratic) cul¬ 
ture of the Spanish Empire, and the nineteenth-century impact on it, 
and on its elite, of post-Napoleonic European radical (but equally 
etatiste) notions, are not easily shed. 

None of this suggests that these countries and cultures cannot adapt 
to the rule of law and economic liberties. No one who has been in con¬ 
tact with the Latino work ethic in California (where the flake popula¬ 
tion is largely Anglo) could doubt that. And in Spain itself, always less 
cut off from Europe than its overseas empire was, a long process has 
resulted, now, in a modern state—though it was only sixty years ago 
that it was shaken by what the historian Hugh Thomas has called a civil 
war between two counterrevolutions. 

The Nation: Hope and Hysteria ♦ 7 / 


With Africa we find, from the nationality point of view, a more com¬ 
plex set of problems. And we should first note that ethnic strife may 
take place even within single territories—in Rwanda as in Bosnia. 

“Tribal” societies with a genuine consensual tradition existed over 
much of the sub-Saharan area almost up to the present day. “Tribal” is 
nowadays usually used as a hostile adjective, but it should not be. It is, 
of course, true that (as in Western Europe) there were polities of a 
despotic character in Africa—in the south, for instance, where at vari¬ 
ous times war and the mass movement of peoples left groups of broken 
men to be incorporated into new nations tribal in form but for a time 
despotic in character; and in the Niger Basin in the eighteenth century, 
where social collapse and distortion were produced by the Arab and 
Western slave trade. But it may be doubted whether these centralized 
dynastic states lasted long enough, for the most part, to truly eradicate 
the traditions of consensus. On the other hand, the present states of 
Black Africa, with very few exceptions, have no ethnic unity (the major 
exception, Botswana, appears as a model of nonviolent and consensual 

Hence it is widely held that in Africa the old frontiers, inherited 
from last century's colonial divide-up, need reconsidering. On the other 
hand, it seems that in some cases a transethnic political class, or general 
elite, using English (or perhaps French or Amharic) has established a 
national unity, but that in others this has failed. 

We might note in this context, though, that the attempt in India to 
impose Hindi, while understandable enough, has already had fissiparous 
results. And while the fact that many states of Africa use the English or 
French language by no means implies any automatic reliance on Britain 
or France, nevertheless, combined with the traditional links, the lan¬ 
guages certainly constitute a closer tie than otherwise subsists between 
Africa and the West or any other part of the world and hence link the 
continent with examples of “advanced” economy and polity. 

The earlier basic African communities and similar “primitive” social 
arrangements may be regarded as societies that were in a sense civic, 
though they were not “open.” This may, after all, have some implica¬ 
tions when it comes to the type of state likely to be most promising 
there. And if this virtue resides in tribalism, it might seem that African 
states should indeed not be conglomerate, as they mostly are now, but 


should be based on a group of communities. Otherwise (or so it could 
be argued) the political processes within todays states are not seeking 
new versions of the traditional forms of balancing interests, but are 
tending rather to a struggle, or at best bargaining, between political 
intellectuals projected from different communities. However, this is not 
to say that the sound tribal traditions might not be transmitted through 
an acceptable federalism of the component nations. 

For, admitting that the present boundaries are often “artificial/’ one 
cannot say that groupings of diverse, and to some degree hostile, ethnic 
elements automatically exclude favorable development. Britain itself has 
emerged from a long interaction between different racial groups. Indeed, 
to narrow it further, Scotland arose (not without conflict) out of the 
merging of four different stocks (five if one counts the Norse element). 
It would be worth examining some of the perspectives for the develop¬ 
ment of consensuality from a “tribal” vitality—as, for example, in 
Papua New Guinea. 

There is now discussion of the idea of large, loose commonwealths 
of different ethnic groups, something like a greater version of 
Switzerland. There seems to be no reason why such a state should not 
be a very positive member of a world community. The problems are 
huge, but present arrangements have hardly solved them. It need hardly 
be said that on grounds of both humanity and interest, the West needs 
to help the emerging nations and discourage the emerging killer nation¬ 
alisms. The policies it has pursued so far have had very limited success. 

12 . 

All this is no more than to sketch some of the realities and possibilities 
of an immensely complex phenomenon. Nationality has done, is still 
doing, much harm. That is no reason to think it can be abolished or 
even seriously eroded over anything but a very distant future indeed. It is 
a powerful force, and while its negative manifestations need to be 
checked, its positive side is unavoidably the material from which any 
true international order has to be constructed. 



Totalitarian Party- 
Totalitarian State 


I n the twentieth century, infallible political ideologies have been his¬ 
torically manifest in militarized totalitarian movements. The word 
“totalitarianism” is regarded by some, mainly academics, as an 
improper usage. This is usually argued by those concerned to avoid par¬ 
allels between the Communist and the National Socialist orders, to 
deny its applicability to the USSR, and to suggest that there were no 
major or substantial differences between Communist regimes and vari¬ 
ous milder types of authoritarianism. 

Since both Gorbachev and Yeltsin used it of the Soviet regime, and 
since such eminent political philosophers as Leszek Kolakowski and 
Giovanni Sartori find the concept helpful, no serious argument might 
seem to remain. Sartoris presentation of the matter, in particular, 
appears definitive. In The Theory of Democracy Revisited, he points out that 
objections to the term run largely along the lines that no state, not even 
the Soviet Union, actually controlled every aspect of its subjects' lives. 
But, he adds, no political concept is ever a complete description of a 
real state, and the same objection would apply to a word like “democ¬ 
racy” It is enough if 

(a) the Idea behind a regime can legitimately be considered as totali¬ 
tarian in its claims; 

(b) the regime itself is in actual practice closer to the “ideal type” the 
word implies than to any other description. 

Kolakowski sees the “total lie” as one of the characteristics of totali¬ 
tarianism—that under late Stalinism not only was virtually everything 


falsified, but that “the borderline between what is ‘correct’ and what is 
‘true’ seems really to have become blurred; by repeating the same 
absurdities they began to believe or half-believe in them themselves.” But 
it is enough to say that in principle the state recognized no limits to its 
authority in any sphere, and in practice extended that authority wherever 
remotely feasible. 

Nevertheless, “totalitarian” as a descriptive adjective is preferable to 
totalitarian ism as a “model”; just as, in general, isms tend to become 
more abstract and unreal than is helpful to our understanding. 

2 . 

The Idea does not subsist on its own. It is not just a system of thought 
bombinating in a vacuum, or entering the intellectual atmosphere and 
being accepted as general guidance after reasonable discussion—though 
its proponents have sometimes presented it as such with a view to win¬ 
ning, or confusing, those concerned. 

On the contrary, it requires interpreters. Every social and every 
human phenomenon has to be given correct evaluation. But this can 
only be done by a recognized authority. 

In the sense we are speaking of, a doctrine or dogma becomes incar¬ 
nate in a “party of a new type,” as Lenin calls the Bolsheviks—a party 
based (as were the National Socialists after them) on an organizational 
and doctrinal command system. 

Its leadership, an authoritative center with power to interpret the 
Marxist runes, was essential to unity and purity of thought, and to cor¬ 
rectness of tactics. (Thus, in the biological disputes of the mid-1940s, 
the Communist Central Committee was the final arbiter—and was rec¬ 
ognized as such by Communist biologists when it ruled against them.) 

Not that this phenomenon is “new” except compared to the looser 
party system then prevalent in Western Europe. It resembles those 
“sworn brotherhoods” or millenarian sects of an era that had long 
passed (in any serious way) in the advanced countries. Its immediate 
roots were in the conspiratorial groups of the nineteenth century. 
Western social democrats, and Westernizing progressives in general in 
Russia itself, regarded the conspiratorial organization of the Bolsheviks 
as an unfortunate but understandable product of the illegal and semi¬ 
legal struggle against Tsarism, which would surely be given up when 
political liberty prevailed. Many Bolsheviks thought the same. 

Totalitarian Party—Totalitarian State 


The writings and actions of the revolutionary-messianic type in fact 
resemble each other down the centuries. And, of course, revolutionaries 
have admitted, or rather exalted, the resemblance. Norman Cohn 
remarks (in later editions of The Pursuit of the Millennium ) that 
Communism and Nazism are inclined to be “baffling for the rest of us” 
because of the very features they have inherited from an earlier phase in 
our culture, now forgotten, but still appealing to more backward areas of 
the world. In such countries as Russia and China, the apocalyptic view 
was “appropriated and transformed by an intelligentsia which, alike in 
its social situation and in the crudity and narrowness of its thinking, 
strikingly recalls the prophetae of medieval Europe.” 

Both Nazis and Marxists themselves often proclaimed their affinity 
with the millenarian demagogues of the period of the German Peasant 
War, claiming that these were men born centuries before their time, but as 
Cohen says, “it is perfectly possible to draw the opposite moral—that, for 
all their exploitation of the most modern technology, Communism and 
Nazism have been inspired by phantasies which are downright archaic.” 

As with the chiliastic movements of centuries long past, modern rev¬ 
olutionaries have, as Cohn points out, claimed to be charged with the 
unique mission of bringing history to its preordained consummation. 
He notes of the earlier versions: 

And what followed then was the formation of a group of a peculiar kind, a 
true prototype of a modern totalitarian party: a restlessly dynamic and utter¬ 
ly ruthless group which, obsessed by the apocalyptic phantasy and filled with 
the conviction of its own infallibility, set itself infinitely above the rest of 
humanity and recognised no claims save that of its own supposed mission. 

The staff, and leading figures, of such movements were and are from 
a more or less educated stratum. When they gain the support of “the 
masses” or “the nation,” it is through such a network, expanded to bring 
in representatives of the larger and less educated sections. 

As to the leaders of those earlier movements, they were mainly mem¬ 
bers of the lower clergy (Spengler interestingly compares the revolution¬ 
aries of the twentieth century with the mendicant friars), plus a few 
eccentric scions of the lower nobility, together with obscure laymen 
who had somehow acquired a clerical education: as Cohn puts it, “a 
recognisable social stratum—a frustrated and rather low-grade intelli- 


gentsia.” (And for their cannon fodder they did not recruit the poor as 
such, but those of the poor “who could find no assured and recognised 
place in society 7 at all") And Cohn, noting all these resemblances to the 
modern revolutionaries, adds that even in the medieval context, not 
remarkable for tolerance or objectivity, the millenarians were “abnormal 
in their destructiveness and irrationality”—psychological points. 


In any country there are doubtless elements psychologically available for 
the right moment and the right regime. The Eichmann mentality existed 
in suspension, as it were, in Germany until it was given its head by 
Hitler. The particular canting scum who rose in the 1940s in Hungary 
were already 7 there, even though they received their final impress and 
style from the Rakosis and Farkases. A morally and intellectually half- 
educated stratum exists, in varying form, everywhere in the world. 

The true novelty of Lenins concept was that he insisted on a party 
consisting entirely of “professional revolutionaries.” It is often said that 
the Mensheviks were opposed to the whole idea of professional revolu¬ 
tionaries. No: they merely believed that a socialist party should include 
not only these but also a broader stratum. The Mensheviks, it is some¬ 
times forgotten, were themselves (by any usual standard) on the extreme, 
and doctrine-dazzled, left. But Lenin saw that to allow into the party 7 
membership people with outside interests would dilute its ideological 
committment. He also saw that a professional revolutionary group 
needs money from outside, and the Bolshevik record for its whole pre¬ 
revolutionary history was—had to be—one of bank robberies, the 
diversion of dowries, rich donors, the embezzlement of state insurance 
and trade-union funds. 

During the underground period, and even during and after the 
October Revolution, the Bolsheviks went through such doctrinal dis¬ 
putes as affect any such sects, as well as divergence on questions of 
political tactics; and manv Bolsheviks believed that their party 7 was in 
some sense internally democratic. 

It was above all the Civil War from 1918 to 1920 which first of all 
made total discipline appear the central necessity 7 , and at the same time 
marked the Bolsheviks off as empowered to enforce their ideas and poli¬ 
cies in their capacity 7 as an elite, against massive unpopularity 7 . It was in 
this period that true fetishism of the Party as such became complete. 

Totalitarian Party—Totalitarian State ♦ 77 

What Orwell had called a type of “nationalism,” directed to a con¬ 
sciously assembled body rather than to a naturally evolving one, had 
emerged. The Party in itself became an icon, a transcendental Idea. In 
fact, Trotsky evoked the parallel: 

None of us desires or is able to dispute the will of the Party. Clearly, the 
Party is always right. . . . We can only be right with and by the Party, for 
history has provided no other way of being in the right. The English have 
a saying, “My country, right or wrong,” whether it is in the right or in the 
wrong, it is my country. We have much better historical justification in 
saying, whether it is right or wrong in certain individual cases, it is my 
party. . . . [A]nd if the Party adopts a decision which one or other of us 
thinks unjust, he will say, just or unjust, it is my party, and I shall support 
the consequences of the decision to the end. 

One of Trotsky’s allies at the time was Yuri Pyatakov, whom Lenin had 
listed among the six most prominent or promising Communists. Pyatakov 
was generally regarded as a particularly intelligent and capable figure. In 
1928 he chanced to meet a former Menshevik friend, N. V Volsky, in 
Paris. Pyatakov, who had just disavowed his Trotskyite views, provoked 
Volsky by suggesting that he lacked courage. Volsky replied warmly that 
Pyatakov’s capitulation a couple of months after his expulsion from the 
Party in 1927, and his repudiation of the views that he had held right up 
till then, showed a real lack of moral courage. Pyatakov, in an excited and 
emotional manner, replied with a long harangue: 

According to Lenin, the Communist Part ) 7 is based on the principle of coer¬ 
cion which doesn’t recognise any limitations or inhibitions. And the central 
idea of this principle of boundless coercion is not coercion by itself but the 
absence of any limitation whatsoever—moral, political and even physical, as 
far as that goes. Such a Party is capable of achieving miracles and doing 
things which no other collective of men could achieve. ... A real 
Communist . . . that is, a man who was raised in the Party and had 
absorbed its spirit deeply enough to become himself in a way a miracle man. 

From his attitude significant conclusions followed: 

For such a Party a true Bolshevik will readily cast out from his mind 
ideas in which he had believed for years. A true Bolshevik has submerged 


his personality in the collectivity, “the Party,” to such an extent that he 
can make the necessary effort to break away from his own opinions and 
convictions, and can honestly agree with the Party—that is the test of a 
true Bolshevik. 

There could be no life for him (Pyatakov continued) outside the 
ranks of the Party, and he would be ready to believe that black was 
white, and white was black, if the Party required it. In order to become 
one with this great Party, he would fuse himself with it, abandon his 
own personality, so that there was no particle left inside him which was 
not at one with the Party, did not belong to it. 

Pyatakov, to whose ability what successes were achieved in the indus¬ 
trial program of the early 1930s were due, in August 1936 wrote to the 
Party secretariat that he deserwed censure for not having revealed his 
wife’s connection with Trotskyism. To regain the Party’s trust, he offered 
to appear for the prosecution if she were tried, and even personally to 
shoot the accused, including her. This was rejected. (But Pyatakov him¬ 
self was of course the leading figure in the second of the great Moscow 
show trials, in 1937, and was duly shot.) 

Pyatakov s was an extreme case, but well within the limits of the gen¬ 
eral Communist attitude. Even the less excitable Nikolai Bukharin was 
telling confidants in 1936 that it was necessary to accept Stalin, as the 
incarnation of the Party. 

Or again, a worker Old Bolshevik, when in a labor camp in Stalins 
time, told a fellow inmate, the former head of the Palestinian CP, how 
he and others like him had felt, even in the early twenties, that “the 
Party was no longer the Party we had known. We no longer had its con¬ 
fidence. But the last thing we could do was to stop trusting it. It was our 
whole life. It was still the Party.” 

The terror period in which Pyatakov and Bukharin and much of the 
Party membership perished may be seen in its personnel aspect as the 
“negative selection” of which post-Soviet Russian writers speak. Those 
who rose to prominence instead had been, as a physicist put it, “morally 
and intellectually crippled.” By the late 1930s the Party 7 had indeed 
become thoroughly totalitarianized, with the result that, as the German 
revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg had foreseen, life had “died out” and 
stultification set in. The already intellectually unimpressive Bolsheviks 
had sunk to a lower mediocrity. 

Totalitarian Party—Totalitarian State ♦ 79 

And this was, of course, imposed on the Soviet-orientated Communist 
movement throughout the world. The great American black writer Richard 
Wright, for a time a member of the CPUSA, tells in his American Hunger: 

An hours listening disclosed the fanatical intolerance of minds sealed 
against new ideas, new facts, new feelings, new attitudes, new hints at 
ways to live. They denounced books they had never read, people they had 
never known, ideas they could never understand, and doctrines they could 
not pronounce. Communism, instead of making them leap forward with 
fire in their hearts . . . had frozen them at an even lower level of igno¬ 
rance than had been theirs before they met Communism. 

In fact, but for the Leninizing of the Communists outside the Soviet 
Union, the Western extreme left would probably not have suffered such 
moral and mental degradation. 

For the Communist Parties were everywhere possessed by the 
Leninist view of ethics and tactics. That is to say, they succumbed to 
untrammeled fanaticism, the use of vicious methods of struggle, and 
the sacrifice of everything to immediate questions of power, in any 
institution to which they had access. One consequence was that (as 
Seymour Martin Lipset points out) they gave people like Ernest Bevin 
and Ronald Reagan experience of Communist attitudes which prepared 
them for coping with the USSR. 

Perhaps even more destructive was that Communists evervwhere 
accepted subservience to the Soviets, support for any line the Soviets 
were taking, and belief in any dubious assertion the Soviets made: a 
process that left a stultified membership. 

To take another example of all this, but in a rather different context, 
in 1956 the Polish Communist poet Adam Wazyk was called before the 
Politburo member Jakub Berman and lectured about his astonishing 
Poem for Adults. As he later told a Westerner, he “saw that we were gov¬ 
erned by imbeciles.” He saw that a thousand individual imbeciles, a 
thousand bureaucrats and propagandists and sophists, do not become 
possessed of some mystic collective wisdom simply by being formed 
into a political organization. And so it was with other East European 
intellectuals: they began to openly set against the alleged infallibility of 
“the Party”—i.e., Berman and his like—the evidence of their own eyes, 
and of their own minds and hearts. 


The paradox is, of course, that—as earlier in Germany—the more 
modernized a country gets (and the more complex the terms in which 
political and social theory are elaborated), the more possible it is to 
build political machines capable of projecting the single will of an indi¬ 
vidual propheta. In the Soviet case, it was possible to deploy such a 
machine on an international scale. 


The primitive overidentification with a group is thus greatly exacerbated 
by acceptance of supposedly infallible theory. It is not even so much the 
unitary ideology that is the practical problem as this group-mind, with 
equivalent hostility to other groups. 

The phenomenon of group, or gang, loyalty has been much studied 
in its sociopsychological context. Here it only needs to be noted that in 
saying “group” or “gang” we are already implying different types of 
it—one benign, or at least neutral, the other malign. The same is obvi¬ 
ously true, as we have seen, of its “national“ forms. 

While most people are born into a nation or culture, gang loyalty 
proper is often a matter of accident; as with the British football hooligans. 
Though we need not forget that the two rival groups of chariot-race fans 
in Byzantium, the Blues and the Greens, in a truce in their violent strug¬ 
gle, united in the Nike Insurrection in A.D. 532 which nearly overthrew 
Justinian’s Empire. 

All groups are in some sense special-interest groups. Those which 
seek economic advantages are usually so called. But it obviously applies, 
too, to groups devoted to securing or preserving power or position. It is 
also not inappropriate for groups in which the investment is emotional, 
and the reward is feeling good. This is not to deny altruism, but to place 
it—noting, too, that it is liable to distortion when acting in the political 
arena; and that neither fanaticism nor failure of the critical faculty is 
unknown in such circumstances. 

And the Leninist (and later the Fascist) conception of “the Party” 
produced an irrational fetishism. While particular individuals may be 
particularly prone to accepting the despotic-revolutionary idea, it is also 
the case that this acceptance, and the merger of the individual into the 
organization devoted to imposing that idea further, changes that indi¬ 
vidual—and for the worse. 

As to the Communist leadership itself, gang attitudes flourished. 

Totalitarian Party—Totalitarian State ♦ 8l 

Milovan Djilas, then a leader of the Yugoslav CP, remarked that his 
experiences in 1944 and 1948 with Stalin and his Politburo made 
him feel “that these men had no confidence at all in the legitimacy of 
their rule. . . . They acted like a group of conspirators scheming to 
suppress, squash, circumvent or hoodwink the inhabitants of some 
conquered land, not their own. . . . Power for Stalin was a plot, with 
himself as chief plotter as well as the one cast to be plotted against. It 
was an expression of the civil war which Communists in power have 
always waged, and will always wage, against society/’ 

He adds that “of course, Russia under Stalin had ‘laws’ and ‘institu¬ 
tions’ on the statute books, and often these were even respected in mat¬ 
ters such as driving on the correct side of the road, regulating the 
electricity supply of Tomsk, or the alcoholic content of vodka. But in 
all things pertaining to man’s spiritual and intellectual freedom, Russia 
under Stalin was a lawless land.’’ 


This century has in fact been the first in which the groups taking over 
countries had the power to use the state machinery to impose doctrinal- 
ly produced errors on the whole of the society. 

It has always, even in ancient times, been difficult to remove the lead¬ 
ership of a state. But, at least until recently, it was uncommon for a state 
to be able to ignore, or run wholly contrary to, all economic, social and 
intellectual trends. The modern totalitarian state suffered few of these 

It can be argued that Marx, and earlier theorists of revolution like 
Rousseau, did not envision mass terror, let alone the totalitarian state. It 
was perhaps more a matter of such ideologues propounding unattain¬ 
able utopias; and of any attempt to put them into practice only being 
possible by such means. 

Totalitarianism is, as Leonard Schapiro notes, “a post-democratic 
phenomenon,’’ arising in the age of nations and nation-states, the emer¬ 
gence of mass society, “the age of the legitimation of power by a demo¬ 
cratic formula,’’ as with other aspects of the modern age, until it finally 
became technically possible to control an entire society and eventually 
to pervade it fully with the regime’s propagandas and its terrors. 

In the mid-nineteenth century the Russian writer Alexander Herzen 
said that what he feared was “Genghiz Khan with the telegraph.’’ And in 


1917 the two main points in the capital first seized by the Bolsheviks 
were the Winter Palace—and the Telegraph Office. This was, of course, 
only the first step. 

It took another fifteen years before full control of society was sub¬ 
stantially achieved. (In Germany the already existing state machine 
proved adequate, though soon thoroughly purged.) 

Aristotle lists various methods used by tyrants, such as “the removal 
of men of spirit,” but also additional measures like the “forbidding of 
common meals, clubs, education and anything of a like character . . . 
likely to produce the two qualities of mutual confidence and high spir¬ 
its,” as well as “the adoption of every means for making every subject as 
much a stranger as possible to every other.” There follow prescriptions 
for secret police, spying, informers, the sowing of mutual distrust and so 
on—though, as Schapiro says, Aristotle’s notion of tyranny nevertheless 
“lacks the mobilisation element, as well as the mass democratic facade.” 

Of course the despotisms of the past were able to enforce their 
orders. But they were not normally engaged in enforcing huge social, 
economic or conceptual changes. They underwent various erosions and 
breakdowns over long periods, but though military conquests and 
dynastic upsets occurred, these polities were static in principle, and in 
the socioeconomic sphere so in practice as well. 

The revolutionary despotisms, coming when their predecessors had 
finally antagonized vast sections of the population, could present them¬ 
selves as the new, the only, alternative (just as in Animal Farm all repug¬ 
nance towards the new regime is blocked by the cry “You don’t want 
Jones back”). They could rely, at least for the short intervening period 
while they consolidated, on generous impulses. And they could nourish, 
at least among a section of their followers, the mystique of a new— 

The revolutionary despotism, persisting, also incorporates the habits 
of the older despotism it has succeeded. Indeed, if we compare the 
Russia and Britain of the 1980s with the Russia and Britain of the 
1830s, we will note that in Russia the previous institutions had been 
destroyed and new ones created, to the accompaniment of the physical 
destruction of the earlier classes and elites, mass “social engineering,” 
slaughter generally and so on; while in England the institutions and the 
elites evolved in what is, on the face of it, a far milder and less complete 
fashion. Yet the Russia of 1990 was far more like the Russia of 1830 
than the England of 1990 was like the England of 1830. 

Totalitarian Party—Totalitarian State ♦ <5j 

It is, indeed, a characteristic of radical totalitarian movements—at 
any rate of successful ones—that this incorporation of “reactionary’' 
methods of nation-binding has given them extra power and appeal As 
George Orwell pointed out, “The idea of National Socialism which 
Hitler brought to fruition was one of the most appealing demagogic 
inventions of the twentieth century,” while the true German 
“Nationalist” movement under Alfred Hugenberg achieved little and the 
various “internationalist” Socialist bodies were ineffective. 

In World War II the Communists, too, turned to the resources of a 
national socialism for survival. Not only were all the old paraphernalia 
of Tsarist officerdom and history brought into play, but anti-Semitism, 
usually noted for the first time in Soviet official circles in 1943—44, was 
also resurrected from the Tsarist past, or copied from the Nazi present. 


A revolutionary despotism is, for several reasons, almost bound to insti¬ 
tute, sooner or later, a terror on a scale not to be found elsewhere. First, 
of course, it is obvious enough that any radical dictatorship with a pro¬ 
gram involving the destruction of whole classes or races is bound to rely 
on a larger degree of terror than a “reactionary” regime needs. But 
beyond that we should consider an even more profound point: a radical 
revolutionary regime usually comes to power after its predecessor has lost 
the minds of the thinking classes in campaigns of “critical” argument. 
On the other hand, the whole intent of the revolution is to institute the 
rule of infallible theory which alone has the right and power to bring his¬ 
tory to its single, foreordained end. And this implies a complete reversion 
to precritical society, in which it is impossible to exercise the judgment 
on the form of state. Plainly, this is conceptually a very difficult task and 
must involve the destruction of the whole attitude that the revolution 
once deployed against the former rulers. It can only be done effectively 
by a most thorough use of terror against the revolutionary class itself. 


“Scientific” totalitarianism, which appears to be the rational, ordered 
form, contains greater elements of irrationality than does the civic cul¬ 
ture. Ours, it is true, usually involves an attachment to ancient rights on 
a piecemeal, and even sentimental, basis not easily amenable to rationali¬ 
zation. But it also contains the element of debate and argument, as well 
as a feeling of deeper and less conscious needs, even if these have not 


been susceptible to adequate verbal elaboration. The totalitarian state 
contains within itself all the elements of a more extreme irrationality: 
the elimination of real debate and criticism and the idolization of pre¬ 
mature political perfectionism. In fact, the backwardness of revolution¬ 
ary despotisms resided not merely in the parallels which may be seen 
between them and the bureaucratic empires of the past, but also in the 
factors thought to constitute their modernity. 

It was of course not only in totalitarian circles that the idea of a state 
with strong or strongish, even if less absolute, control of society became 
widely accepted, or that activism, often hyperactivism, to a large degree 
replaced the idea of good government. Totalitarianism can be seen as an 
extreme of ideological subjectivism, in which the machinery of state is 
primarily a means of enforcing the Ideas of the ruler or ruling group on 
a recalcitrant or refractory society. 

The full pathology of an Idea is to be seen in pure form in, for 
example, the whole lethal activity of the Khmer Rouge. To say that no 
other regimes achieved quite such totality is not to say that they, too, 
were not possessed by an Idea, but that even in less absolute practice the 
phenomenon is deadly enough. Albert Camus wrote of the type, “The 
will to power came to take the place of the will to justice, pretending at 
first to be identified with it and then relegating it to a place somewhere 
at the end of history.” 

We shall consider the content, and the historv, of these ideocratic 


movements and states in later chapters. 



Into the Soviet Morass 


W e should now consider the prime, the longest-lasting, the 
most globally influential example in modern times of an 
Idea taking over and bureaucratically enforcing itself in a 
major country. Above all, it was the most complete and (one would 
hope) the most instructive example of the confrontation between ideol¬ 
ogy and reality—a long, bitter and murderous clash. Moreover, this 
massive misdirection spilled over into too many minds outside the 
Soviet Union itself, in the West and elsewhere. 

It is not my purpose here to prove that the Soviet Union was a ghastly 
historical aberration—but to show how and why this came about, and 
what its major characteristics were. We consider first its roots, the incu¬ 
bation of the Idea. And then, after it comes to power, its attempts to 
transform the social and moral order—examined under various heads: 
the Collectivization Campaign; the Plan; the Terror (seen as an attempt 
to suppress reality); the “New Soviet Man” so created; and so on. 

In this chapter, we thus do not set forth the whole history of Russian 
and Soviet experience. We seek to present it only in its perspective as the 
classical example of the conditions of the emergence of totalist ideolo¬ 
gy, and its manifestations when in power. 

2 . 

The Russia that was to provide the world with its first example of mod¬ 
ern totalitarianism had elements that made it vulnerable (though it is 
fair to say that Lenin only got his chance through a series of historical 
accidents, and thereafter barely held on). The Russian past can be seen 
in this context in terms of an extreme despotism in its habits, and of a 


special and equally extreme reaction against that particular despotism 
which created an ideology-prone intelligentsia. 

“Intelligentsia” is, of course, a Russian word. The condition of being 
an intelligent was defined not by intelligence but by the acceptance of the 
Idea—so given, with the capital letter, and defined as the total destruc¬ 
tion of the existing order and its replacement by a perfect society run by 
none other than the intelligentsia. As used in the West of more or less 
equivalent Westerners, the term was, my dictionary says, “often deri¬ 
sive.” But not only the epithet but even the thing was to appear in the 
West, an import that it would be great to see reexported. This caste 
became especially noticeable in the past thirty-odd years, and we shall 
examine it in a later chapter. But already in the early 1930s Dimitri 
Mirsky was able to publish in London a book, The Intelligentsia of Great 
Britain. (Mirsky, a Prince and ‘former White Army officer, had become 
converted to Communism in British exile. He was shortly to return to 
Moscow, and a miserable death in the Gulag.) 


It can be hardly be maintained that Communism was no more than a 
continuation of Russian history. Tsarism may have been the most 
repressive regime in Europe, but if we take the total executions from 
I860 to 1914 (mostly of genuine terrorists in 1905—10) and add in all 
the other victims of civil repression such as the pogroms, we can hardly 
reach a figure of twenty thousand odd. The current estimate for execu¬ 
tions alone in the two-year period 1937—38 is just under 2 million. In 
terms of the dialectic, this is surely an overwhelming case of the quanti¬ 
tative becoming the qualitative. And indeed, Lenin’s regime was already 
far more violently repressive than anything seen for centuries. 

Still, the first determinant of the country’s future was the fact that 
it had been, over the centuries, an extreme despotism. Chekhov speaks 
of Russia’s “heavy, chilling history, savagery, bureaucracy, poverty and 
ignorance. . . . Russian life weighs upon a Russian like a thousand- 
ton rock.” 

The Crimean War proved a crux. In Britain it is usually looked back 
on as a scene of incompetence, vile hospitals, gallant disasters like the 
Charge of the Light Brigade. From the Russian point of view, it appears 
as quite the opposite—Russia, by a thoroughly sound allied strategic 
decision, was compelled to fight in a far-off border territory where its 

Into the Soviet Morass ♦ 8 7 

enemies had the better communications by sea. In the end, a defeated 
Russia had no further resources and had to sue for peace. 

This proved, or appeared to prove, that the Russian system was a fail¬ 
ure. The immediate result was the Emancipation of the Serfs in 1861, 
and the introduction of a fairly independent judicial and jury system. 
But apart from the establishment of minimally elected local authorities, 
there was no real political change in the autocracy. At the same time, as 
Pasternak put it (Pam Review ; no. 24, I960), in the 1840s, though serf¬ 
dom was obviously obsolete, no tangible hope was to be seen; in the 
1860s '‘liberal landowners have appeared, and the best among the 
Russian aristocrats begin to be deeply influenced by Western ideas”; and 
in the 1880s came “the birth of an enlightened and affluent middle 
class, open to Occidental influences, progressive, intelligent, artistic.” 
The Russian Enlightenment, not yet sufficiently translated into political 
action, had emerged. 

None of the great writers, or other effective figures in Russia, quali¬ 
fied as “intelligentsia.” The bulk of the educated classes were not revolu¬ 
tionaries. They tended to hopes, and attempts, to liberalize the country. 
Their efforts have been neglected in much of the literature: in one sense 
understandably so, since they failed, and were extinguished. 


For there also arose, in the mid-nineteenth century, that important ele¬ 
ment outside the established order, and under the influence of Western 
revolutionary thought, who were completely alienated: in fact, the intel¬ 
ligentsia. This more traditional, or negative, reaction was to be decisive. 
It emerged first as “nihilism,” the idea that all beliefs apart from the 
new notions of science had no validity and that skepticism about all 
values was sciences main aim. This became fairly common among the 
“educated,” but inadequately educated, young: “Students pedantic in 
specs, Nihilists smug in their smocks,” as Pasternak was to put it. 

The impact of science and technology in the early part of the nine¬ 
teenth century is hard to envisage today. The physical and mental effects 
of the railway or of Darwin were everywhere profound. In a Russia that 
had no real previous experience of assimilating novelty, acute mental indi¬ 
gestion ensued, as with a starving man suddenly given too much food. All 
this shook the instinctive confidence even of the older generation, and 
they found it hard to answer the young nihilists and revolutionaries. 


Their elders either gave way, as Ronald Hingley says in his The Russian 
Mind , to “gratifying and undignified displays of indignation,” thus 
encouraging the young to intensify their provocations, or “pandered to 
the young through feebleness of spirit or a desire to court populari¬ 
ty”—as with the Dostoevsky character in The Possesed. 

Nihilism proper was hardly more than a pose, giving little emotional 
satisfaction beyond that of the knowledge of one’s superior modernity, 
and the ability to annoy parents, priests and others. Though on the face 
of it the attitude was purely egoistic and did not logically lead to the 
idea of revolution, in practice its adepts were recognized as fertile soil 
by the small and slightly older stratum that had already taken up revolu¬ 
tionary views. And logically or not, the two attitudes faded into one 
another: to reject and to destroy. 

This adolescent absolutisrh provided an arena in which the various 
credos of revolution were debated, categorized and, as it were, theolo¬ 
gized by the more sophisticated mystagogues. In the 1890s one of the 
most active revolutionaries, Mikhail Frolenko, felt that “we already 
knew so much that if the people were taught one tenth of it, Russia 
would become the first country in the world.” As Adam Ulam points 
out, this “knowledge” was entirely theoretical, and if endorsed Russia 
would indeed become first in the world by revolutionary standards— 
i.e., “she would be plunged into complete anarchy!” 

This intelligentsia was marked by extreme intolerance. Of the 1860s, 
for example, Mackenzie Wallace noted that “the press was able for some 
time to exercise a ‘liberal’ tyranny scarcely less severe than the ‘conserva¬ 
tive’ tyranny of the censors in the preceding reign.” It was the same phe¬ 
nomenon which caused Nikitenko to report, in his diary for October 
1857, that “in their intolerance they [the new opposition] are becoming 
representatives of a new and almost greater despotism than the previous 
one.” The liberal Herzen went further still. He claimed that “an opposi¬ 
tion which leads a frontal attack on a government always has itself, in an 
inverted sense, something of the character of the government attacked. I 
believe that there is some justification for the fear of Communism 
which the Russian government begins to feel: Communism is the 
Russian autocracy turned upside down.” 

Indeed, as Hingley puts it, “the former tyranny may have been the 
easier to bear. . . . Even a noncomformist may bow with dignity to 
superior power; there is of course something far more slavish in the 

Into the Soviet Morass ♦ 69 

conformism of one who can be made to toe the line by fear of not 
being considered a liberal. ,, Nearly forty years later Chekhov claimed 
that the political despotism of the imperial Ministry of Internal Affairs 
was at least equaled by that of the editorial office of Russkaya Mysl } the 
progressive oppositionist journal. He prophesied that 

under the banner of learning, art and persecuted freedom of thought 
Russia will one day be ruled by such toads and crocodiles as were 
unknown even in Spain under the Inquisition. Yes, you just wait. Narrow¬ 
mindedness, enormous pretensions, excessive self-importance, a total 
absence of any literary or social conscience: these things will do their 
work . . . will generate an atmosphere so stifling that every healthy per¬ 
son will be nauseated. 

In the same spirit are the denunciations of the intelligentsias 
“credulity without faith, struggle without creativity, fanaticism without 
enthusiasm,” of the “dogmatism, censoriousness, woolly-mindedness, 
ignorance and general dottiness” so eloquently expressed in the truly 
liberal Landmarks (Vekhi) some years later. As the Russian philosopher 
Nikolai Berdayev put it, “Scientific positivism, and everything else 
Western, was accepted in its most extreme form and converted not only 
into a primitive metaphysic, but even into a special religion supplanting 
all previous religions.” The revolutionary, the scientific, the utilitarian, 
hit, and in their crudest form. It was said of Alexander Mikhailov, the 
effective leader of one terrorist movement, that “an idea would get hold 
of him without his grasping what it was all about.” 

The revolutionaries were unanimous in opposing any liberalization 
of the regime, and any development of civil society. They stood for the 
seizure of power by an elite. They commonly called their principles 
“socialist,” in the sense that their rule would suppress the market activi¬ 
ties emanating from the West, and would introduce equality under the 
state for such as obeyed its orders. 

These revolutionaries probably numbered no more than a few score 
in the 1860s, and a few hundred in the 1870s: their conspiracies, 
including the assassination of Tsar Alexander II, gave them fame. 


Lenin became a revolutionary in 1877—78, at the age of seventeen or 
eighteen. Revolution thus preceded Marxism as his motivation: he says 


that his outlook was “completely transformed” by reading N. G. 
Chernyshevsky s What Is to Be Done? Chernyshevsky, embodying the 
whole primitive ethic of: the intelligentsia, stood for a conscious 
devoted elite; and above all hated liberalism and liberals. Lenin said 
later that it was Chernyshevsky who showed that every right-thinking 
man must be a revolutionary. One thing Chernyshevskv had written 
was that “a man with an ardent love of goodness cannot but be a som¬ 
bre monster.” 

Thus Lenin and others like him, revolutionaries first, Marxists later, 
already thought in terms of a “scientific” positivism of the type to be 
found in France and elsewhere (and hardly distinguishable from that of 
some of the revolutionaries of a century earlier). Marxism gave the 
mental aspirations of Lenin and his colleagues something more modern 
and far more completely ideological. It dealt with the new phenomenon 
of heavy industry and the “proletarian” working class. It presented a 
whole theory of human history, and of the universe in general. It pro¬ 
vided proofs of its analysis of society and the economy. It divided 
humanity into irreconcilable sections engaged in a struggle to the death. 
It guaranteed revolutionary victory, and at the same time insisted on the 
need to fight for it. And it was deeply opposed to liberalism and all its 

6 . 

In 1902, in his What Is to Be Done?, Lenin, while keeping the ideological 
pieties of Marxism, gave them a different interpretation. In the Jacobin 
tradition the task of revolution was now to be entrusted not to a nebu¬ 
lous “class” but to a professional revolutionary elite party acting in that 
class's name. Lenin, like Marx before him, had become an advocate of 
the proletarian cause before he had seen an actual proletarian. His 
underground Bolsheviks henceforth, as far as possible, transformed their 
worker recruits into professional—i.e., paid, full-time—revolutionaries. 
The workers who gave some support to the October 1917 coup were 
those recently recruited from the peasantry; the established working 
class—railwaymen, printers—backed the Mensheviks. And by mid- 
1918 the city workers were everywhere in opposition. As to the 
Bolshevik top leadership, only one (Tomsky) had been a worker. None 
of this affected what was regarded as more real and essential than fact, 
more pravda than istina —the claim that a Bolshevik ideology and pro- 

Into the Soviet Morass ♦ 9 / 

gram were in the interests of a notional proletariat, and would thus lead 
to a classless society. 

Throughout Soviet history a “proletarian” background remained 
desirable, where possible. Men who had been apparatchiks for years still 
ranked as proletarians. And derivation from nonproletarian strata was 
even branded hereditarily The sons and daughters of priests, kulaks and 
merchants were long treated as second-class citizens. Solzhenitsyn notes 
this attitude in Cancer Ward: 

“All right, maybe I am the son of a merchant, third class, but I've sweated 
blood all my life. Here, look at the calluses on my hands! So what am I! 
Am I bourgeois? Did my father give me a different sort of red or white 
corpuscle in my blood? That's why I tell you yours isn't a class attitude but 
a racial attitude. You're a racist. . . .'' 

“It makes no difference if you had ten proletarian grandfathers, if 
you're not a worker you're no proletarian,” boomed Kostoglotov. “He's not 
a proletarian, he's a son of a bitch. The only thing he's after is a special 
pension, I heard him say so himself.” 

Nevertheless, the “proletarian” aspect .was always stressed. When 
Khrushchev, soon after World War II, suggested to Stalin that taxes on 
the Soviet peasantry were excessive, Stalin (himself never a “proletari¬ 
an”) said that Khrushchev had lost his proletarian class sense. Dozens 
of examples could be given, from the earliest days of the regime. 

In fact, we saw the effective substitution of the Party for the working 
class. So that even half-crazed Ethiopian army officers or spoiled rich 
youths in Cuba or Nicaragua could ideologically represent the world 
proletariat, as much as did the pampered bureaucrats in Moscow. Nor 
could a hint that proletarian rule was merely a code word lor party dic¬ 
tatorship emerge. 


Lenin's revolution, based on this deception, or self-deception, was a tri¬ 
umph for the party mind. Victory in the Civil War was a near thing, and 
more than once the Leninists felt that all was lost. But after three years 
of war, plague, famine and terror the Communists succeeded in holding 
power over an exhausted country. Their own ideas had produced much 
of the disaster. First, they had, in May 1918, decided that socialism, in 


their sense, was now on the immediate agenda. They had abolished the 
market in food products, and relied on forced requisition from the peas¬ 
antry. And they were proceeding to the abolition of money, free trans¬ 
port services and so on. But in 1921, amid peasant risings, a crumbled 
economy, intense worker unrest, the Kronstadt Rebellion of that 
Bolshevik bastion the Baltic Fleet, it became clear that the choice was 
between losing power and making concessions—as Trotsky put it, “The 
middle peasant spoke to the Soviet government with naval guns.” 

Lenin, facing ruin, changed tack and kept power. Over the next four 
years this New Economic Policy saw the revival of the economy, and 
some relaxation of the terror. At the same time, the remnants of the 
socialist opposition were suppressed and opposition groups within the 
Communist Party forbidden. The breathing space, in fact, amounted to 
an opportunity for the Communists to get their second wind, to pre¬ 
pare for a further ideology-based offensive. 

Over the 1920s the Communists consolidated themselves in two 
ways: by solidifying their machinery of power and by an intensive and 
monopolistic propaganda barrage onto the population. At the same 
time, the politico-economic apparatus solidified into a new caste. The 
veteran Communist Khristian Rakovski spoke of the “car-and-harem 
syndrome” that permeated the inner party, which he saw as in effect 
having “private ownership of the state.” 

Another aspect was the Marxist (though not only Marxist) idea of 
heavy industry: a kind of fetishism of the machine, of technology. 
Lenin defined socialism as “Soviets plus electrification.” Posters, from 
the early twenties, concentrated strongly on bright workers, men and 
women, standing in front of towering machinery. Indeed the “moderni¬ 
ty” of the regime was expressed in the (then) high-tech telegraphese 
used for its manifestations: Sovnarkom for Soviet of Peoples 
Commissars (Sovet Narodnykh Kommissarov); Gosplan for the State 
Planning Commission; Gulag for the Chief Administration of Labor 
Camps; and so on. 

When it came to agriculture, the means of higher development under 
socialism was to be the tractor—also a great poster theme. This would 
not merely give vastly higher production, but would also be the means 
of urbanizing the countryside in accordance with the promise in the 
Communist Manifesto. 

The autocratic traditions and habits, and the utopian tradition that 

Into the Soviet Morass ♦ 93 

had arisen in reaction to it in the absence of any but the beginnings of 
civic experience, were the conditions of the Leninist revolution. And the 
new regime even, in a different sense, inherited the old imperialist 
expansionism which Engels had remarked on as something that would 
only end when Russia had “a constitutional forum under which party 
struggles may be fought without violent convulsions”—not applicable 
to Lenin’s regime, in which the tradition of Moscow as the Third Rome 
was replaced by the Third International. 

8 . 

The central, classical demonstration of what might be called ideological 
insanity in practice came with the campaign in 1929—33 to collectivize 
the peasantry. The history of this inhuman aberration has been told. 
Millions of human beings perished, and at the same time the agricultur¬ 
al economy was ruined. 

The countrywide terror against the peasantry was based on the claims 
of ideology and of power. Ideology demanded that the independent peas¬ 
antry be destroyed as an economic class; power demanded that the prod¬ 
ucts of the countryside be taken into the hands of the state. Molotov 
later commented, “They say that Lenin would have carried out collectivi¬ 
sation without so many victims. But how could it have been carried out 
otherwise?” He added that Lenin would probably have done it even earli¬ 
er, and that he was “sterner” than Stalin and had often decided on 
“extreme measures'’ while “rebuking Stalin for softness and liberalism.” 

Then, Marxism is inherently urbicentric. The peasantry represents a 
class naturally tending, even if not at first, to reactionary—and above all 
commodity-centered—motivations. For the Leninist, the peasant is an 
incarnation of backwardness and in the long run an enemy to be 
brought under control. At the same time, this urbicentrism leads to illu¬ 
sions about the possibility of controlling and planning agriculture on 
more or less industrial lines. On the record this has always been a fail¬ 
ure. Yet it persisted, not only in fully fledged Leninist states like 
Vietnam but even in Tanzania, for instance. 

The land of the landlords had been spontaneously seized by the 
peasantry in 1917—18. A small class of richer peasants with around 
fifty to eighty acres had then been expropriated by the Bolsheviks. 
Thereafter a Marxist conception of class struggle led to an almost 
totally imaginary class categorization being inflicted in the villages, 


where peasants with a couple of cows or five or six acres more than their 
neighbors were now labeled “kulaks/’ and a class war against them 

The necessary hatreds were inflamed; the activists who helped the 
GPU in the arrests and deportations, Vasily Grossman tells us, 

were all people who knew one another well, and knew their victims, but in 
carrying out this task they became dazed, stupefied. . . . 

They would threaten people with guns, as if they were under a spell, 
calling small children “kulak bastards/' screaming “bloodsuckers!” . . . 
They had sold themselves on the idea that the so-called “kulaks” were 
pariahs, untouchables, vermin. They would not sit down at a “parasite's” 
table; the “kulak” child was loathsome, the young “kulak” girl was lower 
than a louse. They looked on the so-called “kulaks” as cattle, swine, 
loathsome, repulsive: they had no souls; they stank; they all had venereal 
diseases; they were enemies of the people and exploited the labor of oth¬ 
ers. . . . And there was no pity for them. They were not human beings; 
one had a hard time making out what they were—vermin, evidently. 

Grossman, himself Jewish and the Soviet Unions leading writer on 
Hitler's Holocaust, draws the analogy with the Nazis and the Jews. A 
woman Communist activist explains, “What I said to myself at the time 
was ‘they are not human beings, they are kulaks/ . . . Who thought up 
this word ‘kulak’ anyway? Was it really a term? What torture was meted 
out to them] In order to massacre them it was necessary to proclaim that 
kulaks are not human beings. Just as the Germans proclaimed that Jews 
are not human beings. Thus did Lenin and Stalin proclaim: kulaks are 
not human beings.” 

The Party’s reply, and its rationale for everything done to the kulaks, 
is summarized with exceptional frankness in a novel by Ilya Ehrenburg 
published in Moscow in 1934: “Not one of them was guilty of any¬ 
thing; but they belonged to a class that was guilty of everything.” 

In another such novel, also published in Stalin’s time, a Party man 
says he can no longer go on persecuting women and children. But the 
chief activist, Nagulnov, will not have it: 

“Snake!” he gasped in a penetrating whisper, clenching his fists. “How are 
you serving the revolution? Having pity on them? Yes . . . You could line 
up thousands of old men, women, and children and tell me they’d got to 

Into the Soviet Morass ♦ 93 

be crushed into the dust for the sake of the revolution, and I’d shoot them 
all down with a machine-gun/’ 

Or, as another activist puts it, “He thinks he is killing a bullock, but 
in reality he is stabbing the world revolution in the back/’ And 
Nagulnovs example was on the whole followed. It is to an activist of 
this period that the well-known saying is attributed: “Moscow does not 
believe in tears/’ 

Former activists have written of how they kept their ideological faith 
right through the performance of actions against the starving villagers 
of which the great Lev Kopelev, later one of Russia’s leading “dissi¬ 
dents,” wrote: 

It was excruciating to see and hear all this. And even worse to take part in 
it. . . . And I persuaded myself, explained to myself. I mustn’t give in to 
debilitating pity. We were realising historical necessity. We were perform¬ 
ing our revolutionary duty. We were obtaining grain for the socialist 
fatherland. For the Five Year Plan. . . . Our great goal was the universal 
triumph of Communism, and for the sake of that goal everything was 
permissible—to lie, to steal, to destroy hundreds of thousands and even 
millions of people, all those who were hindering our work or could hin¬ 
der it, everyone who stood in the way. And to hesitate or doubt about all 
this was to give in to “intellectual squeamishness’’ and “stupid liberalism,’’ 
the attribute of people who “could not see the forest for the trees.” 


The immediate result of these measures was a catastrophic decline in 
agricultural output across the USSR as a whole over the 1930s. The 
government’s reaction was to base its requirements for delivery of grain 
from the collective farms not on actual production but rather on what 
became the basis of Soviet agricultural statistics until 1953—the “bio¬ 
logical yield.” This was based on the estimated size of the crop in the 
Fields before harvesting; it was more than 40 percent higher than the 
reality. And in 1932 even this tenuous link to the facts failed; the figure 
was distorted by merely multiplying acreage by optimum yield. The 
grain requisitions made on this basis were ruthlessly enforced by activist 
squads (and, in Bukharin’s view, this experience contributed greatly to 
the brutalization of the Party). 

Such action left the peasant with a notional but nonexistent surplus on 


which to live. As a result, over the winter of 1932—33 major famine swept 
the grain-growing areas. Some 4 to 5 million died in Ukraine, and another 
2 to 3 million in the North Caucasus and the Lower Volga area. During 
this period about 1.7 million tons (1.5 million metric tons) of grain was 
exported, enough to have provided about a kilogram a head a day to 15 
million people over three months; and this apart from millions of tons 
held in state reserves supposedly in case of war. We now have full docu¬ 
mentation that the Stalin leadership knew exactly what was happening and 
used famine as a means of terror, and of revenge, against the peasantry. 

A census taken in January 1937 was suppressed, and the Census 
Board was arrested. Its figures, finally revealed in 1990, showed a popu¬ 
lation of circa 162 million. The Soviet demographers had counted on 
about 177 million. The population deficit, including a decline in births, 
was thus some 15 million, of which premature deaths due to deporta¬ 
tion and famine are believed to amount to at least 10 million. 

It was already an offense carrying five years in labor camp to refer to 
the famine in any way, even in the villages affected; while to blame it on 
the authorities led to a death sentence. An American congressmans 
queries, passed to the Soviet Foreign Commissariat, were answered by 
the claim that talk of famine was “lies circulated by counterrevolution¬ 
ary organisations’'; while Soviet President Mikhail Kalinin responded to 
offers of food from the West by saying that ‘‘only the most decadent 
classes are capable of producing such cynical elements.” 

10 . 

After the economic disaster of collectivization there were two possibili¬ 
ties: to admit failure and change policy, even to relinquish total power; or 
to pretend that success had been achieved. The latter course was chosen. 
In fact, the Idea, contradicted by reality, coped with reality by denying it. 

As a result, for the whole of the rest of the Soviet epoch the country 
lived a double existence—an official world of fantasy, of happiness, 
grand achievements, wonderful statistics, liberty and democracy, and a 
reality of gloom, suffering, terror, denunciation and apparatchik degen¬ 
eration. Arthur Koestler, who was in Kharkov in 1933, describes the 
disorientating effect of reading the papers, full of young men and 
women smiling under banners, gleaming factories, awards to shock 
workers, while the city’s electricity only worked a few days of the week, 
and people were dying of hunger a few miles away. 

Into the Soviet Morass ♦ 97 

Collectivization was, as Boris Pasternak pointed out, “a failure as 
well as a mistake,” and the countryside never recovered. It was a failure 
because all its presuppositions, or Ideas, were invalid. It was not only 
based on the notion that a “class struggle” existed in the villages 
between an invented stratum of kulaks and the rest of the peasantry. It 
pretended that the forced entry into collective farms of the peasants 
remaining after the deportation of the kulaks was voluntary. And more 
profoundly, it believed, or at any rate claimed, that collectivization 
would produce an enormous increase in agricultural productivity; tor, 
after all, the peasants were now in effect socialized and thus at a higher 
quasi-urban stage of development. 

Meanwhile, the offensive was pursued on two other fronts. The 
attack on religion was resumed, with the arrest of priests, demolition of 
churches and a vast propaganda campaign—a purely ideological drive, 
of course. And a “cultural revolution” removed the bulk of the bour¬ 
geois specialists not only in academic areas but also in such practical 
spheres as engineering—with the result that soon most of the country's 
practicing engineers lacked proper training. 


The two different Soviet Unions now in being were manifest in a set of 
phantom institutions and arrangements which put a humane face on the 
hideous realities: a model constitution, adopted at the worst period of 
the terror and guaranteeing human rights; elections in which there was 
only one candidate, and in which 99 percent voted; a parliament at 
which no hand was ever raised in opposition or abstention. The Idea, 
the unanimous society, had, officially, triumphed—not quite unanimous 
yet, however, since enemies of the people remained to be rooted out. 

The earlier falsifications had been shameless enough, as with the pas¬ 
sage in a poem of Mayakovsky's in the 1920s with Soviet children ask¬ 
ing “What is a policeman?”—the word “police” had been abolished. By 
the 1930s the country had become, even more than in Mayakovsky's 
time, a police state. 

Terror, accompanied by a massive indoctrination effort, was obvious¬ 
ly intended to destroy all possible resistance—to kill or imprison mil¬ 
lions and to subdue the rest of the population. But this only takes us so 
far. More radically, its aim and effect was to impose the regime’s fantasy 
of a flourishing and happy country—beset, however, by dangerous sub- 


versives—to destroy the truth as far as possible, and to uproot or pre¬ 
vent independent thought. 

The general story of the mass terror under Stalin is well known. The 
original Red Terror under Lenin, less widely known, had set the scene. 
Lenin actually believed in terror as a good thing in itself. He had given a 
theoretical justification of terror as early as 1905, when he envisaged the 
use of it in the stvle of 1792 “to settle accounts with Tsarism” after the 
Revolution. In 1908 he had written of “real, nation-wide terror, which 
reinvigorates the country and through which the Great French Revolution 
achieved glory/’ Many similar pronouncements could be cited. 

From 1929 full terror arrived—first against the peasantry, then 
against the party, the soldiery and the population as a whole. It is the 
classic case—to be followed by similar actions in China and else¬ 
where—of an ideological government inflicting enormous demographic 
losses on its own population. 

We do not have exact figures on the population losses—as, indeed, is 
true even of the Jewish Holocaust. The fact that we are not certain of 
the human cost within a few million is itself remarkable testimony to 
the extent of the terror. 

At any rate, we are in the realm of what Russians call the Twenty 
Million—that is, who died, and not covering those who survived the 
forced labor camps, where, as Izvestia put it towards the end of the 
Soviet period, they suffered “unbearable toil, cold and starvation, 
unheard of degradation and humiliation, a life which could not have 
been endured by any other mammal.” In June 1937 Stalin complained 
that prisoners were being “coddled.” Shortly afterwards, for inade¬ 
quately fed victims in extreme Arctic conditions, fur clothing and felt 
boots were banned, being replaced by wadding jackets and trousers, 
and canvas shoes. 

Modern, “Socialist” conceptions thus led to inhuman acts against 
populations and individuals. The sheer moral and mental corruption of 
the terror could be illustrated by hundreds of examples. Bukharin’s 
widow Anna Larina tells us how in the dreadful labor camp to which 
she had been consigned, an NKVD officer found on her a photo of her 
and Bukharins baby (who had long since been taken from her), which 
she had managed to hide. He yelled at her, “You bitch, still dragging a 
Bukharinite pup around with you,” spat on the photo and ground it 
under his boot. 

Into the Soviet Morass ♦ 99 

Or what would any even semicivilized person make of the fate of 
170 blind, legless or otherwise incapacitated men in prison in Moscow 
in early 1938, Sentenced to short terms the previous year for minor 
offenses such as vagrancy, they were now resentenced—on the same 
charges—and shot, because the labor camps would not accept them. 

There are thousands of stories of vicious tortures and beatings. We 
have the file of the notorious interrogator V M. Ushakov, who had 
beaten lake confessions out of Marshal Tukhachevsky and others and 
was himself arrested late in 1938. He complained that he, too, was now 
being beaten, that he had not realized how horribly painful it was, and 
that besides, those he had beaten were enemies of the people. And the 
point, the whole point, of these tortures was, in every case, to obtain 
confessions which were false as to fact, but in accord with the unreal 
world of ideology. 

As to the extent of terror against the Party itself, older Communists— 
like all revolutionary groups—were to some extent the product of a criti¬ 
cal attitude, if only vis-a-vis the former political and social order. Having 
achieved power, they were, as we have said, in the position of having to 
restore the precritical attitude as far as their own ideas and organization 
were concerned. The dust must be swept back under the carpet, the genie 
restored to its bottle. But this is a staggeringly difficult task: conceptually 
it requires extravagant doublethink, highly deleterious to the minds elabo¬ 
rating it; organizationally it requires an unprecedented terror, far more 
than was ever needed by traditional despotism. (Mao, like Stalin, under¬ 
took a massive terror against his own party in the “Cultural Revolution”.) 

The arrested and accused, party or nonparty, were almost without 
exception innocent of the charges of treason, sabotage and conspiracy 
raised against them. They were, almost invariably, tortured simply and 
solely to make false confessions and to implicate others, suffering ago¬ 
nies purely to validate a vast ideologically driven paranoia. Their families 
were often arrested, too, as in Larinas case. “Member of the family of a 
traitor to the motherland" was itself a criminal category. The formerly 
secret legal articles covering this have now been published in Moscow, 
full of provisions on how wives of enemies of the people are to be sen¬ 
tenced to five to eight years of imprisonment; how nursing babies of 
enemies of the people are to stay with their mothers in labor camps 
until the age of one and a half, when they are to be transferred to near¬ 
by orphanages, and at the age of three to more distant ones; how chil- 


dren fifteen and over are to have their education supervised by the 
NKVD and be watched for political error, and, if necessary, 
“repressed.” The publicly announced lowering of the execution age to 
twelve in 1935 was applied in many cases. 

It was not merely a question of those arrested, sent to camps or shot. 
The whole population was directly affected: for example, after the arrest 
of the parent of a schoolgirl or schoolboy, the whole class, or even the 
whole school, would be assembled by the Young Communist activists, 
and the pupil harangued or forced to make a public denunciation of her 
father or mother. We have some of the minutes of such meetings, and 
revolting reading they make. But above all, every schoolmate had the 
story rubbed in. And the same is true, in only slightly less repulsive 
form, of meetings of fellow workers at the victim s factory or office. 

In general, the psychological effect of these mass arrests and disap¬ 
pearances was thus profound over the whole of the threatened popula¬ 
tion. Even far lesser terrors in other backward countries have been shown 
to crush or distort the public mind. The reasons for suspicion were 
many. The great writer Isaak Babel had met the French author Andre 
Malraux—therefore he was a French spy. Weather forecasters had made 
erroneous reports—to sabotage the crop. Astronomers were arrested as 
terrorists—but they had already given grounds for suspicion by advanc¬ 
ing non-Marxist views on sunspots. One of the more “objective” accusa¬ 
tions is worth quoting. We have a top secret report by a senior NKVD 
official to Stalin personally on the arrest of two officials of a plastic fac¬ 
tory that had produced 120,000 buttons with swastika patterns “for 
purposes of Nazi propaganda.” Stalin minutes, “What a nerve.”This was 
in 1935, before the worst period. Stalin grows less tolerant. For example, 
on the question of what to do with the Tatar Communist Sultan Galiev 
and his group, he simply writes, “Shoot all the swine” And, as has been 
noted by many observers, it was precisely the unpredictability of the ter¬ 
ror in individual cases that made it so devastating, so that Stalins whims 
contributed to, rather than weakened, the effect. 

Sometimes the victims were subjected to public confession trials. 
Much more often the “trials” were secret. In other cases, there was even 
greater misdirection. In 1940, without her husband being informed, the 
wife of Stalins old colleague Marshal Kulik was secretly arrested, inter¬ 
rogated and shot. Allegedly, she had simply disappeared in unknown 
circumstances. Others were simply murdered, as with a former Soviet 

Into the Soviet Morass ♦ 101 

ambassador to China and his wife. Or, more striking, the case of the 
USSR’s leading Jewish figure, Solomon Mikhoels, who was clubbed to 
death at Belorussia’s MGB dacha in January 1948 under the supervision 
of Stalin’s Deputy Minister of State Security, Sergei Ogoltsov (and this 
was at a time when the death penalty had been abolished!). His body 
and that of a similarly treated companion were then left on a Minsk 
street where, it was announced next day, they had been run over by a 
truck. Later the same month the police officials involved were, without 
publicity 7 , awarded medals (similar medals and orders without publica¬ 
tion had been given to the NKVD team that murdered Trotsky in 
1940). We now learn, too, that Stalin’s senior poisoner, Colonel 
Maironovski, accounted for some hundred and fifty victims. These are 
odd insights into a massive record of terror and a total disregard of any 
normal moral principle. 

Was the terror intrinsic? Was it necessary? Perhaps only by such 
methods could the regime enforce its irrational policies. Certainly the 
terror not simply could but actually did crush the population. Even 
when mass terror was abandoned in favor of normal, if notably harsh, 
police-state methods, it took a generation to emerge before any serious 
idea of change could become thinkable. 

All in all, unprecedented terror must seem necessary to ideologically 
motivated attempts to transform society massively and speedily, against 
its natural possibilities. The accompanying falsification took place, and 
on a barely credible scale, in every sphere. Real facts, real statistics, dis¬ 
appeared into the realm of fantasy. History, including the history of the 
Communist Party, or rather especially the history of the Communist 
Party, was rewritten. Unpersons disappeared from the official record. A 
new past, as well as a new present, was imposed on the captive minds of 
the Soviet population, as was, of course, admitted when truth emerged 
in the late 1980s. 

12 . 

All this was done in the service of the new order, made manifest in the 
“planned economy.” The First Five-Year Plan, launched in 1929, in its 
initial form prescribed goals for fifty industries and for agriculture, but 
over the period that followed it was treated mainly as a set of figures to 
be scaled upward. The industrial growth rate originally laid down was 
18 to 20 percent (in fact, this had already been achieved, in the only way 


it ever was to be achieved, on paper). Stalin soon insisted on nearly dou¬ 
bling this rate. The Plan and its successors were thereafter a permanent 
feature of Soviet life. 

Understanding of the economic side of the industrialization drive of 
the 1930s was long confused by two factors. The first was the claim by 
the Communists that they were implementing a rational and fulfillable 
plan. The second, which came later, was the notion that they had in fact 
secured unprecedented increases in production. Extravagant claims were 
made and continued to be issued until the late 1980s. It was only then 
revealed by Soviet economists that the true rate of growth in production 
over the 1930s had only been around 3.5 percent per annum, about the 
same as that of Nazi Germany over the same span of time (though 
German products were of far higher quality). A characteristic fault was 
“giantism”—the Party’s inclination to build on the largest and most 
ostentatious scale. One result was continual organizational problems. 
More crucial, as we shall see, was that production figures were always at, 
or beyond, the limits of capacity, so that maintenance and infrastructure 
were neglected, with deleterious long-term results. 

By the end of the 1930s it was officially claimed that “Socialism” 
had been achieved. So it had, in the sense that the state, in the name of 
the workers, now controlled the economy. Since it was by definition a 
higher form of society than its capitalist predecessor, the corollary was 
that it was more prosperous, freer, more creative and so on. In fact, the 
population was on the whole far worse off than in 1914, or even under 
the NEP. But such a notion was inadmissible. 

Though it sounds paradoxical, it is true that, as Professor Stanislaw 
Swianiewicz wrote in 1965 in his Forced Labour and Economic Development, 
the Soviet planning method “was an outcome of the irrational forces 
which have been released and are not easily to be mastered.” Orders were 
given by planners—who were not in a position to appear timid—and 
directors had to accept them. The pressures became great to fulfill each 
factory's plan at all costs. This could only be done by cutting corners, 
using inferior materials, going for bulk only, ignoring ecological or 
health considerations, neglecting the infrastructure—and even then 
more often than not having to fake the results. 

Soviet economists, as soon as they got the chance, pointed out that 
the problem of setting prices was insoluble. Twenty-four to twenty-five 
million industrial prices alone per annum, each backed by thousands of 

[nto the Soviet Morass ♦ /Oj 

pages of documentation, had to be handled by the State Commission 
on Prices. In the end, no one knew what the true production figures 
were, nor what the costs were, nor the quality of the products. 

Russian economists believe that even in the 1980s, up to 30 percent 
of material passing through Soviet production actually lost value in the 
process. At the time Alain Besanfon noted, of steel production figures, 
that these included “production of steel, production of pseudo-steel, 
pseudo-production of steel” and various other categories of uselessness. 
For where did all the claimed 80 million tons go? A quarter of it would 
be more than enough for armaments. There was little sign of it on 
roads, not much in housing. 

As to the neglect of the infrastructure, there was no party kudos for 
keeping up the roads or sewers. So that even now there are fewer miles 
of paved roads in the whole ex-USSR than in the state of Ohio; and in 
St. Petersburg the water is thick with giardia. 

A Russian in that city once said to the present writer, in late Soviet 

“Our roads are bad” 

“. . . Yes. Why is that?” 

“Its our weather—an isotherm runs down the Finnish border” 

“And seriously?” 

“They were built by the state.” 

“Yes, but we have roads in England which were built by the Roman 
state nearly two thousand years ago, and some of them are still sound.” 

“Ah, but then the centurion would check that the six layers of stone 
had been laid down. Here, the inspector asks the foreman if they have 
been laid down and is answered with a bottle of vodka.” 

In a slightly different vein, the New Zealand scholar John Jensen, 
who even ten or fifteen years ago used to drive round the USSR in a 
caravan, once warned me that with such vehicles one should not be 
tempted to gain speed going downhill in order to go easily up the next 
slope—because there may be a bridge, but the bridge, owing to diver¬ 
gent planning, may be inches higher than the road, with bone-shaking 

“He drank the profits, and left the embankment to his deputies, who 
left it to their assistants, who left it to itself.” This is in fact a descrip¬ 
tion, by Thomas Love Peacock, of Seithenyn ap Sethyn Saidi in ancient 


Wales. But it might have been published in Pravda in one of its cam¬ 
paigns for economic improvement. These cases of total parasitism were 
not, indeed, the norm. But lesser embezzlement was common enough. 
And even directors who were honest enough vis-a-vis the state could sel¬ 
dom achieve their norms, even with routine manipulation of the figures, 
without obtaining raw materials illegally. Paul Craig Roberts argued in 
his Alienation and the Soviet Economy that the organization of supply for 
enterprises could not work efficiently except by informally (and often 
“illegally”) “directing its activities towards overcoming problems created 
by its own existence,” with the result that the regime “succeeded only in 
avoiding the appearance of commodity production,” and this only by 
incurring enormous losses. 

The extraordinary story of the automobile plant installed by Fiat in 
Ukraine (the Togliatti Factory) speaks for itself. This was a prestige 
operation, and one conducted, moreover, under the eyes of foreigners. 
Yet errors and delays of every possible sort supervened. It did not start 
production until two years after the target date. Then there were endless 
troubles, and the workforce remained far larger than that which the 
Italians used. 

Administration of the plan by ambitious apparatchiks led to extraor¬ 
dinary disasters. As we have said, it was more or less automatic for fac¬ 
tory directors to fake their output figures in one way or another, thus 
in Stalins time) at least postponing the moment of arrest—or (later) 
disgrace. And it was normal for a party secretary in a forest region to 
cut down all the trees within a reasonable distance, with a good chance 
that he would soon be transferred elsewhere so that his output would 
compare favorably with that of the successor who had to harvest the 
logs farther off—and he in turn would leave those farther off yet for 
his unfortunate replacement. All run-of-the-mill stuff. 

At the opposite pole to examples of apathy and corruption, we find 
frenzied activity on the part of individual local leaders seeking prestige. 
A. N. Larionov, First Secretary of the Ryazan province and a full mem¬ 
ber of the Central Committee for many years, promised in Khrushchevs 
time to double his provinces meat production in a year, an absurd 
impossibility. He and his associates, however, succeeded in this by 
slaughtering all the milk cows and breeding stock, buying (with ille¬ 
gally diverted funds) cattle from other provinces, and so on. 
Larionov, by now a Hero of Socialist Labor and holder of the Order 

Into the Soviet Morass ♦ lOj 

of Lenin, had many imitators in other provinces. Exposed, he com¬ 
mitted suicide. 

Ten years later, under Brezhnevism, we find similar occurrences. One 
of dozens of examples was a great efficiency drive in agriculture in the 
Kokchetav province. This took the form of enforced specialization, by 
which sheep, cattle and so forth were concentrated in the areas thought 
best for them. Villages where sheep farming had been practiced for cen¬ 
turies were left with no sheep, and dairy farms were suddenly filled with 
hordes of them. Pigs, however, were the greatest sufferers. They were 
banned on all except a few specialized farms, the rest being slaughtered 
immediately. As a result, meat, milk and food production in the 
province fell drastically. The local meat factories refused to buy pigs 
except from the special farms, which had not got round to producing 
any, so the pigs left in private hands had to be marketed in provinces 
hundreds of miles away. 

As to built-in idiocies, as against insane initiatives, as recently as the 
1980s it was found that a leading factory wishing to use the chassis of 
buses for their lorries was unable to get them sent from their own facto¬ 
ry of origin except in complete bus form. After years of failing to get 
decisions from the Ministry, they had to accept the complete buses, 
knock their bodies off with steel balls, and install their own lorry bod¬ 
ies instead. 

Another notable charactristic of the Soviet system was the fact that 
though the state was in most ways far more powerful and intrusive than 
that of, for example, the United States, laws inconvenient to anyone with 
pull were simply not enforced. In Brezhnevs USSR, as in America, there 
were laws covering food purity. The former were not, and the latter were, 
enforced. Similarly, after the earthquakes in California and Armenia in 
1991, Mikhail Gorbachev—then still President of the USSR—was 
asked at a seminar I attended why the casualties in Armenia were so much 
higher than in California. He replied with commendable frankness that 
while both countries had laws about anti earthquake standards of con¬ 
struction in buildings, in Soviet Armenia these had not been observed. 

As can be seen, the reasons for failure are not to be thought of as 
merely economic. The habits necessary to efficiency were effectively dis¬ 
couraged on a systemic basis. A striking illustration of this is in the way 
people in Moscow speak of a block of flats as particularly desirable 
because built by German prisoners of war. 


Meanwhile, utopian doublethink continued. The Communist Party 
Program, adopted at its 1961 Congress, asserted that by 1980 there 
would be so much food that all workers would be fed free of charge at 
factory canteens; schoolchildren and students would get free clothing 
and books; all citizens would enjoy rent-free housing; water, gas, elec¬ 
tricity and heating would be free of charge, as would all means of 
transportation; all citizens would have two months' paid vacation per 
year. As Khrushchev put it, by 1980 the Soviet Union would “overtake 
America” in everything—“food, wealth, comfort, industrial strength.” 

13 . 

The effect on the ecology was, as is now recognized, devastating. 
Everything was neglected or ignored in the interests of production. 

Not only did this cause great direct human damage—the infant mortal¬ 
ity rate was over three times as high as in Britain—but the much propagan¬ 
dized medical services were extravagantly underfinanced. In 1990 
Moscow’s Health Minister revealed that half the hospitals had no sewer¬ 
age, 80 percent had no hot water, and 17 percent no piped water at all. 
And so on and so on. This was concealed, especially in propaganda to the 
West, until the system was on the point of collapse. The bureaucratic reac¬ 
tion to the disaster of Chernobyl is illustrative. David Remnick notes as 
typical of the regime that when told that the reactors radiation was mil¬ 
lions of times higher than normal, the plant director, Viktor Bryukhanov, 
said the meter was obviously defective and must be thrown away, while 
Boris Shcherbina, a deputy prime minister, refused a suggestion to carry 
out a mass evacuation: “Panic is worse than radiation,” he said. 

Then the whole structure of the economy was excessively weighted in 
the direction of heavy industry. This was in part on Marxist grounds, 
the nineteenth-century notion of the centrality of heavy industry and 
its role as congener of the industrial proletariat. We find ranking high 
among ideology-driven miscalculations the concept that investment in 
heavy industry should be carried out at the expense of every other eco¬ 
nomic aim. This meant treating consumer goods as a second- or third- 
class concern. As Andrei Sakharov put it, they hoped to have a rich state 
based on a poor population. But this disregard for the level of human 
life was not immediately ruinous. For the citizens, as Remnick puts it, 
“The self-deception and isolation of the Soviet Union had been so 
complete for so long that poverty felt normal.” 

Into the Soviet Morass ♦ toy 

However, the stress on heavy industry was also a result of the con¬ 
cern to create as high a level of military production as possible, in order 
to outface the capitalist enemy—pursued to a degree that starved the 
rest of the economy. The comparative, though insufficient, technical 
success of much of the military investment has been explained on two 
grounds. It had the use of the most skilled and effective workers at 
every level, who were thus isolated from the civilian economy, with 
ruinous effects on the latter. And the military itself represented a real 
“consumer”: unlike the citizen, unable to complain if his new shoes 
leaked, the armed forces could refuse to take a plane that was not up to 
scratch, or at least in a range of specification. But in the end, as 
Gorbachev put it, the “insane militarization” of the economy ruined the 
country without outfacing the West. 


One of the aims of the regime was to produce the “New Soviet Man” 
devoted to the aims of Party and State and free from the psychological 
distortions and alienations of bourgeois society. This was based on the 
Marxist theory that social-economic conditions determine conscious¬ 
ness. Socialism would inevitably produce another, and higher, form of 

The “New Soviet Man” was much promulgated and led a phantom 
existence. The reality was different, as Solzhenitsyn puts it in Cancer 
Ward: “We thought it was enough to change the mode of production 
and people would immediately change with it. But did they? The hell 
they did! They didn’t change a bit ” Or for the worse. 

Then, as the physicist Alexander Weissberg noted in the late 1930s 
(of Ukrainian industry, but the point applies more generally): 

A few months later their successors were arrested too. It was only the 
third or fourth batch who managed to keep their seats. They had not even 
the normal advantages of youth in their favour, for the choosing had been 
a very negative one. They were men who had denounced others on innu¬ 
merable occasions. They had bowed the knee whenever they had come up 
against higher authority. They were morally and intellectually crippled. 

Thus, as a natural result of the ideocratic system, a “New Class,” as 
Milovan Djilas had christened it, subsisted like a cancer penetrating the 


whole of society and sucking nutrients from its tissues. Since all reason¬ 
able intelligence tends sooner or later to reject the unreal, the ruling 
stratum was increasingly selected from the stupefied and inhuman. And, 
as Orwell points out, such ruling elites “may ossify very rapidly,” 
because unlike other ruling groups such as aristocracies, they choose as 
their successors their own like. Not exactly like, no doubt, but not very 
different. It was indeed a “negative selection” that raised up the new 

A well-known British writer on the USSR, Edward Crankshaw, who 
had much experience of it during and after World War II, wrote in his 
Putting Up with the Russians of the moral and mental squalor of the middle 
ranks of Soviet officialdom, 

whether in uniform, attached like toxic parasites to the unfortunate Red 
Army, or in civilian clothes. This is a milieu almost impossible for the for¬ 
eigner to present to his own countrymen. I have had to work with such offi¬ 
cials in war and peace. Their sycophancy, their barefaced lying, their 
treachery, their cowardice, are so blatant, their ignorance so stultifying, their 
stupidity so absolute, that I have found it impossible to convey it with any 
credibility to those fortunate enough to never have encountered it. 

And they settled in permanently, or what appeared to be permanent¬ 
ly. As Andrei Sakharov wrote in the late 1970s of the whole late Soviet 
apparat, down to junior levels: 

A deeply cynical caste has come into being, one which I consider danger¬ 
ous (to itself as well as to all mankind)—a sick society ruled by two prin¬ 
ciples: hlat (a little slang word meaning “you scratch my back and I ll 
scratch yours”), and the popular saw: “No use banging your head against 
the wall.” But beneath the petrified surface of our society exist cruelty on 
a mass scale, lawlessness, the absence of civil rights protecting the average 
man against the authorities, and the latters total unaccountability toward 
their own people or the whole world, this dual irresponsibility being 

The stultifying nature of Soviet life under these operators is well 
illustrated, at a petty level, in the autobiography of the great soprano 
Galina Vishnevskava, Galina. She tells of La Scala s coming to Moscow 
from Milan. A representative of the company went around to the 

Into the Soviet Morass ♦ log 

Ministry of Culture to say that La Scala would like Galina to sing Tosca 
with them. The answer was that Galina didn’t sing Tosca. When the 
Italian protested that she had sung in a Milan performance of the opera 
the year before, the culture official replied that Galina was not in 
Moscow. On learning from the La Scala representative that indeed she 
was in Moscow and was as a matter of fact dining with him that very 
evening, the official dismissed him with a promise to call him in half an 
hour and give him a final answer. The final answer was that Galina 
refused to sing Tosca. When the La Scala man went to dinner with her 
and asked if she had really refused to sing it, she answered that of 
course this was untrue. Upon his expressing astonishment, she 
explained, “You’re in the Soviet Union/’ This is but one of several simi¬ 
lar stories she recounts. 

Under the Soviets one of the perks of power, understood at all lev¬ 
els, was the institutionalization of the feeling that the beneficiary could 
act with complete arbitrariness to those dependent on him or her. This 
is characteristic of all such regimes—indeed to a lesser degree of all 
hierarchies. But in the USSR it rose to almost transcendental heights. 
At the top level, one minor example: in the 1970s the Panov couple, 
both top ballet dancers, asked to be allowed to emigrate. This was 
refused, and they were fired from their jobs. There was something of 
an uproar in Western intellectual circles, even in the pro-Soviet milieu. 
This had no effect. But some years later they were allowed to emigrate. 
I asked a Moscow friend what was going on: the regime had had a great 
deal of very bad publicity, but if their policy so dictated, why had they 
(much too late to avoid trouble) let them out at all? He answered that 
the whole point was to show “who was in charge.’’ 

But this was seen at every level. In his Moscow! Moscow! } the South 
African poet Christopher Hope (with no pretension to expertise), 
giving a very good impressionistic view of life in late Soviet times, 
tells of going by rail from Moscow to Orel with his guide-inter¬ 
preter. It was a very hot day, and the window was locked. He suggest¬ 
ed to his companion that they should ask the carriage concierge-type 
woman to open it. He looked dubious, but agreed. When she came 
round she seemed offended at the request, but took out her key and 
opened it a little. Later, as the heat got worse, Hope asked her to 
open it wider. With an enraged look on her face, she then locked it 
up completely. 


Well before the tall of the Soviet Union, I remember the future dem¬ 
ocratic leader Yuri Afanasiev agreeing with me that what was necessary 
for the country was the elimination of feudalism—bv which status and 
wealth were conferred simply by the state. 

The Soviet elite was rooted solely and exclusively in the political 
sphere, and its powers were “politically granted, politically guaranteed 
and politically oriented.” This is pointed up by the extent to which the 
privileged enjoyed perquisites deriving from their status. For in addition 
to high salaries, the Soviet elite had access to an extraordinary array of 
hidden secondary benefits. An extra months salary (“the Thirteenth 
Month”) was routinely given as a bonus to most leading Party figures 
and some others. Important officials in Moscow received special extra 
payment in gold “rubles” with which they could purchase foreign goods 
in the state-run foreign currency shops: several thousand are believed to 
have benefited from this so-called Kremlin ration. The foreign currency 
shops were also of particular use to Soviet elite families, about eight 
thousand members of whom had positions abroad and were able to 
exchange part of their very high salaries in a form usable in these shops 
by relatives at home. Then there were several thousand sinecures; for 
example, those of the approximately fifteen hundred deputies of the 
Supreme Soviet who only had a few days’ ceremonial duties per annum 
got one hundred rubles per month and enjoyed free travel. 

As was pointed out by Mervyn Matthews in his Privilege in the Soviet 

Another touchstone is the secrecy which shrouds the doings of the most 
favoured Soviet citizens. It is noteworthy that (a) words like “elite,” “rich* 
are banned as a description of any Soviet social group, (b) no information 
whatever on higher salaries is printed for open distribution, (c) no official 
figures have so far been given for the national distribution of income, 
probably because this would reveal an unsocialistic degree of inequality, 
(d) scarcely anything is printed on elite lifestyles, or the benefits which an 
elite might enjoy, (e) there is nothing nearly as comprehensive as a 
“Who’s Who” in the Soviet Union. This was due to definite Soviet cen¬ 
sorship instructions. 

Omnipresent bureaucracy and a new caste of sycophants appear to 
be the necessary results of the destruction of civic relations and the 
non—command economy. 

Into the Soviet Morass ♦ ill 


With such truths repressed, falsehoods in every field were incessantly 
rubbed in in print, at endless meetings, in school, in mass demonstra¬ 
tions, on the radio. Even more striking, for a creed based on the notion 
that economic class determined consciousness, was the reliance on 
“agitprop”—agitation and propaganda—which constituted a state- 
sponsored monopolistic campaign to inculcate the Party line. The pop¬ 
ulation was, in effect, deafened and disorientated. Joseph Brodsky 
quotes Anna Akhmatova saying that no one could understand the Soviet 
system who had not been forced all day, day alter day, to hear the Soviet 
radio. Leszek Kolakowski writes of the totalitarian attempts “to swal¬ 
low all channels of human communication.” The individual could not 
breathe a word of the truth with impunity. As Isaak Babel said (in strict 
confidence to a trusted friend), “Today a man only talks freely to his 
wife—at night, with the blankets pulled over his head.” 

On a different note, the censorship body, GLAVLIT, is believed to have 
employed about seventy thousand full-time staff, concerned not merely to 
eliminate incorrect facts and promote correct falsehood but also to ensure 
that the correct ideological spin was put on every published item. 

Sakharov (like other heroes of this transition) says that even his and 
their minds were under a profound “hypnotic spell”; and this psycho¬ 
logical distortion has left its mark on many of them to this day. Still, as 
we know, in the end the experiment failed. The economic and ecological 
decay which led up to the collapse of the regime is obvious enough. But 
it should be added that this meant, over the decades, that the actual and 
the notional conditions became more and more distinct, the falsehoods 
more flagrant. Fifteen or twenty years ago, when one spoke with Soviet 
officials one began increasingly to notice a look of shame as they pre¬ 
sented to Westerners what were not just lies, but obvious and con¬ 
temptible and discreditable lies. 

So, the material decay was matched by the developing moral and 
intellectual crises. The latter, once it broke through, had intense griev¬ 
ances to feed on. 


The main characteristics of the Communist Idea, simply put, were and 
remained these. First, it was a way of seeing the world which was in the 
very strictest sense dogmatic; that is, it accepted the idea that a final 


world-view, political philosophy and theory of society had been devised, 
and that the nature of the perfect human order which would prevail 
throughout the future was known and would be realized by theoretically 
prescribed methods. That is, it was a closed system of thought, and one 
which, being “true” in contrast to the falsehood of all others, implied a 
closed society. As a result, in Solzhenitsyns words, “The primitive 
refusal to compromise is elevated into a theoretical principle and is 
regarded as the pinnacle of orthodoxy.” Second, this way of thinking 
implied that the political leadership, and political considerations gener¬ 
ally, were on a higher and more comprehensive plane than all other ele¬ 
ments in society and were empowered to make the final decision in all 
fields. Third, it was based on a view of history, and of the world in gen¬ 
eral, that saw struggles and clashes as the only essential mode of politi¬ 
cal or any other action. Other political orders—even '‘Communist” 
ones that deviated in any significant way from that of the USSR (for 
example, Dub£ek’s Czechoslovakia or Maos China)—were in principle 
illegitimate, to be destroyed when tacticallv convenient, just as aberrant 
political or other views within the USSR were subject in principle to 
total suppression. 

The Idea was never to be submitted to serious argument. Even 
before the Revolution, Lenin had written that his aim in polemics was 
not to refute but to destroy his opponent. Nor were his arguments 
rational. State and Revolution, for example, is concerned to prove not that 
his opponents are wrong, but that they are “renegades” from 
Marxism. He does this by interpretations of the texts of Marx and 
Engels. It is a completely fideistic, as opposed to rational, approach. 
The paranoid component is also well seen in the typical expressions 
of Communist argument, recognizable as symptomatic by any alienist: 
ne sluchayno —“it is not accidental”—used of any pair or set of unrelat¬ 
ed circumstances; and kak izvestno —“as is known”—used of any dubi¬ 
ous or false assertion. 

The doomed writer Isaak Babel said in private conversation (later 
reported to the secret police) in 1938, “Soviet power is only sustained 
by ideology. Without that it would be over in ten years.” It permeated 
the whole structure. As Alain Besan^on remarked: 

The moment the individual accepts the language of the ideology, he 

allows his mental world and his sense of self-respect to be hijacked along 

Into the Soviet Morass ♦ l 1J 

with the language. No matter how inadvertently he may have stumbled 
into the use of the official vocabulary, he is now part of the ideology 
and has, in a manner of speaking, entered into a pact with the devil. . . . 
Ideology collapses when Communist power collapses. Or, if you like, 
ideology and language collapsed together with the legitimacy of 
Communist rule. The language of Communism is the power of 

Even when enthusiastic belief became difficult, adherence to ideolo¬ 
gy demonstrated political loyalty—a very essential pragmatic function. 
It is hard to know what people really believe. As Lenin said, no one has 
yet invented a “sincerometer.” Moreover, it is very easy to believe, or 
assent to, something that justifies one’s own power and position, as is 
common historical experience—and this is, of course, the essence of 
Marx’s “false consciousness.” 

Djilas noted in the 1940s that the rule of the Soviet leaders contin¬ 
ued to be “anchored in Ideology, as the divine right of kings was in 
Christianity; and therefore their imperialism, too, has to be ideological 
or else it commands no legitimacy.” He added that this is the reason 
why Western hopes that the Kremlin might be pressed or humored into 
a truly comprehensive detente was based on a misunderstanding, since 
“no Soviet leader can do that without abdicating his title to leadership 
and jeopardising the justification of Soviet rule”—as indeed happened. 

As to international policy, the “class principle’’ was only given up 
when Eduard Shevardnadze became Foreign Minister in 1990. This 
change, as he pointed out, meant the abandonment of the idea of per¬ 
manent conflict with all other political orders. 

The penultimate premier of the USSR, Nikolai Ryzhkov, tells us 
in his memoirs that all Politburo decisions, even in his time, were 
taken on an ideological basis. This applied to both domestic and 
foreign affairs. In each case, it was a matter of, in principle, weighing 
the interests of the international proletarian struggle. Of course, 
any real connection with proletarian interests had long since evapo¬ 
rated. The more valid point is that all public phenomena were 
judged in terms of benefit to one side or the other in a worldwide 
unappeasable conflict. 

The effort failed in the end, but how was it that it lasted so long? 
Above all because the Idea became institutionalized, and the institu- 


tion was the totalitarian state. It controlled every aspect of power and 
of thought; it penetrated in detail every aspect of the society and the 

In fact, the Idea, if it is to enforce itself on a population, needs to 
extinguish, as far as possible, even the possibility of dissent. Its aim was, 
after all, the unanimous society. It did not achieve it, but the attempt 
went far enough to be ruinous to Russia and dangerous to the whole 



The Great Error: 
Soviet Myths and 
Western Minds 


T he delusive view of the Soviet phenomenon to be found in 
Western intellectual, or near intellectual, circles in the 1930s, 
and to some extent again in the first postwar decade and later, 
will be incredible to later students of mental aberration. 

For a long time, and to some degree still, one found factual evidence 
and reasoned argument facing a gradient of preconceptions not only 
about the Soviet Union and its hatchlings but also on all sorts of relat¬ 
ed issues. 

The record of British, American and other dupes of the Soviets has 
been dealt with elsewhere in well-researched books by Paul Hollander 
and others (though the material is so rich that it would take a small 
encyclopedia to do justice to it). The intention here is more to consider 
how and why this aberration took place, to differentiate its various 
species, and to suggest a crucial question: Is it—or anything resembling 
it—likely to be repeated, and thus to endanger our future? 

The approaches were from minds sunk, separately or in combination, 
in the inappropriate romanticism and inappropriate rationalism we con¬ 
sidered in Chapter I. 

As to the latter, George Orwell noted Bernard Shaw’s early attitude to 
the Russian Revolution. Shaw’s “bloodless rationalism’’ could only see 
in Lenin and his subordinates reasonable people with a well-considered 


program, and he accused Churchill of falsely characterizing them as 
devils when they were no more than rational human beings at work. 
Orwell commented that whether one regards them as angels or devils, 
one thing certain is that they were not reasonable men. 

The more romantic, but not thereby less disastrous, motives for self- 
deception were often a matter of good intentions—a proverbially inad¬ 
equate guide. Its bearers had turned to socialism as a means of creating 
a better, more humane society. But of course socialism is not a synonym 
for humanitarianism but a specific social and political mechanism cred¬ 
ited with the power to produce that society. 

The comfortable word “socialism” was thus a major mind-trap. It 
signified for three or four generations a political and economic system 
free from guilt. Society, instead of private persons, would run (and was 
running) the Soviet economy. Or rather, since society could not do so, 
the state would do so and was doing so for it. In any case, the great 
result would be the end of “capitalism.” “Socialism” was what Lenin, 
Stalin and their successors claimed to be practicing. They came, after all, 
from a section of the old Socialist movement. And by the mid-1930s 
capitalism, private ownership, had indeed been destroyed in the Soviet 
Union. And what could the noncapitalist order be but socialism? And 
this, or something like it, possessed the minds of many in the West for 
another thirty or forty years. 

The ethical argument, if such it can be called, seems to run: 

(1) there is much injustice under capitalism; 

(2) socialism will end this injustice; 

(3) therefore anything that furthers socialism is to be supported, 

(4) including any amount of injustice. 

The idea of socialism had entered many minds over the previous 
couple of generations. Even when not specifically Marxist, even when 
not based on conscious and ideological theory, in its less dogmatic form 
it had received a Marxist input from the general intellectual atmosphere. 
In particular, it promoted the view that socialism would not only be a 
better and juster social order, but also that it was more modern, more 
advanced, that it represented a higher historical level. What was to 
become, in effect, the Soviet constituency in the West arose primarily 
among those who had accepted a belief in the possibility of attaining a 
good society through state power, but especially those among them who 

The Great Error: Soviet Myths and Western Minds ♦ liy 

blamed their own actual economic and social orders for inhumanity. 
These saw the Soviet system as both anticapitalist and possessed of a 
generally acceptable formula for social reorganization. The Soviet 
Union, and Communists everywhere, were accepted as part of the 
“left,” The lines thus drawn were between supporters of the System— 
Conservatives, Social Democrats (“reformists”) and so on, and advo¬ 
cates of its overthrow, (When Hitler, from another radical perspective, 
was struggling for power, he divided his opponents into supporters of 
das System and enemies outside the system—to wit, the Communists,) 
People originally concerned with humanitarianism thus at first saw 
“socialism” as a habitation for it, but later began to accept the structure 
as sufficient in itself, even when deprived of its original purpose. 

H. G. Wells has a short story in which an Eastern prince is devastat¬ 
ed by the death of his young and much loved bride. He decides to 
devote himself to putting up a worthy monument to her. Her tomb is 
to be the focal point of a splendid dome which is the center of the 
magnificent new temple. The prince devotes himself to the planning 
and building. During the construction his ideas become year by year 
more ambitious, and he orders a sequence of changes, making the whole 
result more and more aesthetically perfect. Until one day he comes in 
with his architects and looks around, still unsatisfied. He goes off, 
returns, looks around critically, and finally points to the tomb and says, 
“Take that thing away.” 

In some such way, their Idea of socialism was built round the con¬ 
cept of social justice, but the form retained its admirers after the 
removal of the content. 

There was thus an unjustified mental leap between attacking the mis¬ 
deeds of capitalism and accepting the Soviet Union as a model. Lincoln 
Steffens had been a fearless exposer of political and financial corruption 
in the United States. How could he go to Russia in the 1920s and say, 
“I have seen the future and it works,” of a barely viable terror regime? 
One role of the democratic media is, of course, to criticize their own 
governments, draw attention to the faults and failings of their own 
country. But when this results in a transfer of loyalties to a far worse 
and thoroughly inimical culture, or at least to a largely uncritical favor¬ 
ing of such a culture, it becomes a morbid affliction—involving, often 
enough, the uncritical acceptance of that cultures own standards. 

By the 1930s the atmosphere in such circles was one of revulsion 


against what appeared to be a muddled and exhausted political system 
in the West, and against an economic system (“capitalism’') which was 
then slowly recovering from crisis. 

It is sometimes argued that a thinking beings allegiance should not 
be given to his country or his culture since it is mere accident that he is 
born in them. He should, on the contrary, rise above such prejudice— 
use his power of independent thought and judgment to discover the 
world’s most worthy cause or country and give it his devotion. 

Now it is clear that this higher-level transcending of roots, this puri¬ 
ty of abstract motive, is seldom a true description of such attitudes. As 
Albert Camus pointed out of French Sovietophiles, it was not so much 
that they liked the Russians as that they “heartily detested part of the 
French.’’ In general, people do not transcend their roots, though they 
may think they are doing so. 

Many whose allegiance went to the Soviet Union may well be seen as 
traitors to their countries, and to the democratic culture. But their pro¬ 
founder fault was more basic still. Seeing themselves as independent 
brains, making their choices as thinking beings, they ignored their own 
criteria. They did not examine the multifarious evidence, already avail¬ 
able in the 1930s, on the realities of the Communist regimes. That is to 
say, they were traitors to the human mind, to thought itself. 

2 . 

It is true that Western societies had, and have, many blemishes. One 
thing fetishism of the Communist order missed was, as Leszek 
Kolakowski has pointed out, that the Communist societies had most of 
the faults of our own in more acute form; and that the claims to (for 
example) superior medical services were fictitious. And, above all, that, 
at a more basic level, the blemishes on the Western body societal how¬ 
ever bad, in a broader comparison could be seen as unpleasant and visi¬ 
ble afflictions of the skin, and not, as with Soviet society, cancers of the 
vital organs. 

Further reasons, or rather excuses, were available. The Communists 
were, or appeared to be, the most militant opponents of Nazism, and 
the most effective supporters of democracy in the Spanish Civil War, 
which engaged the sympathies (though naturally not the full under¬ 
standing) of liberals, socialists and moderates everywhere in the West. 
The Communists disposed of an array of international connections. 

The Great Error: Soviet Myths and Western Minds ♦ l ig 

including many Western journalists, while the Francoites had a very lim¬ 
ited audience, and similarly with the Anarchists, the left-wing POUM, 
and that part of the Madrid government suspicious of and under pres¬ 
sure from the Communists (the local Communist leaders themselves 
being, often reluctantly, forced to carry out the orders of the Soviet 
“advisers”). So the suppression of the non-Communist left in Barcelona 
in 1937 was seen in America and Europe almost wholly from the 
Communist point of view. And the apparent Soviet-sponsored defense 
of democracy and liberty distracted attention from the total crushing of 
anything resembling democracy or liberty in the Soviet Union itself 

Another factor we should not neglect is fashion. Not a very rigorous 
conception, but conveying better than most the atmosphere later 
ridiculed as “radical chic.” It was manifest in a belief that those accept¬ 
ing it were more up to date, more a la mode than the ruck; and it went 
with the traditional rejection of the “bourgeoisie” in its various aspects. 

Sovietophilia was thus an extravagant example of the dogmas perva¬ 
sive in the 1930s in countries with freedom of press and publication. It 
should indeed be repeated that the same period, even a rather longer 
one, took psychoanalysis to be uniquely and undeniably descriptive of 
human behavior. In fact, though the Freudian and the Marxist views are 
logically incompatible, many advanced circles contrived to believe both, 
or combinations of features of both. They shared the characteristics 
necessary for a system, or supposed system, of thought required to be 
accepted by minds thirsty for certainties—they both claimed to be sci¬ 
entific and exhaustive. And both doctrines provided, separately or 
together, that built-in proof that disagreement was due to prejudices 
predictably embedded in the opponents mind by forces understood by 
the elect. 

Of course, Freudianism cannot be blamed for Communism; and in 
the Soviet Union psychoanalysis was suppressed as a bourgeois aberra¬ 
tion. It is ironic that, nevertheless, a combination of Freudian and 
Marxist certainties is very evident in a whole genre of pro-Communist 
and anti-Western literature, including even some of Audens verses. In 
these the Western bourgeoisie, or the ruling classes in general, are repre¬ 
sented as not so much reprehensible as obsolete, decadent, worn-out, 
doomed—and (among other things) impotent. This notion to some 
extent persisted even after World War II. A left-wing journalist of my 
acquaintance, becoming a trifle drunk at a party, picked on a Duke, one 


of the North Country ones, with a loud “What use are you?” and so 
on. When a mutual friend said, “Well, they say hes very good in bed,” 
this clearly infuriated the journalist more than any other counter. 


A further reason for self-deception was mere parochialism. People could 
not bring themselves to believe the horrors of Stalinism. It was far easi¬ 
er to attribute such stories to reactionary spite—even though hundreds 
of witnesses had long since reached the West. As Nobel Prize poet 
Joseph Brodsky put it later, many here were unable to take in the mere 
scope of Soviet terror and oppression, preferring to save their moral 
indignation for the incomparably less dreadful “mustachioed colonels.” 
Parochialism also affected the Western academic community, which 
continued to produce work treating the Soviet Union as at worst a rea¬ 
sonable sort of system not very different from our own. Such expertise 
in turn justified the true pro-Soviet political stratum here, which, in 
fact, did not want real events, real people, let alone real reforms or 
peaceable progress. They wanted to reduce actuality to a psychodrama. 
To them all the world is indeed a stage—or an amphitheater, with 
themselves as the emperor and his entourage, and the rest of us as gladi¬ 
ators, or Christians. 

Speaking of which reminds one of the pro-Stalinist clergymen met 
with then and later—for example, Hewlett fohnson, Dean of 
Canterbury, who managed to reconcile his allegiances while somehow 
missing Leniris view that “every religious idea, every idea of God, even 
flirting with the idea of God, is unutterable vileness . . . contagion of 
the most abominable kind. Millions of sins, filthy deeds, acts of vio¬ 
lence, and physical contagions ... are far less dangerous.” The present 
writer chanced to see “the Red Dean” peddling his line in the Balkans 
after World War II. The impression given was one of overpowering vani¬ 
ty—of “Look at me, untainted by bourgeois prejudice!” 

Nor was the dean an isolated case. The record vis-a-vis the Soviets of 
a fairly large section of Western religious representatives merits fuller 
study—as with the World Council of Churches voting, time and again, 
to condemn various offenses against humanity throughout the world 
except in the Communist countries, in spite of attempts by clear-minded 
delegates to the contrary. On the Soviet Union, their conferences 
accepted the line advanced by its regime-sponsored church representa- 

The Great Error: Soviet Myths and Western Minds ♦ ill 

tives (almost all of whom have since been officially identified as KGB 
agents, with appropriate code names). 

The appeal to vanity is again obvious in such cases as that of Bernard 
Shaw (in what has been described as “the most frivolous episode in his¬ 
tory”) when he returned to the USSR at the height of the Stalinist 
famine and reported an overfed population. So with the supposedly 
more solid figure of H. G. Wells—another Fabian, but one who had 
been hostile to Communism and regarded Stalin as a dictator. When 
Stalin gave him an audience in 1934, Wells was won over—his trust in 
his own powers of personality assessment enabling him to say of Stalin 
that he had “never met a man more candid, fair and honest,” attributing 
these qualities to “his remarkable ascendancy over the country since no 
one is afraid of him and everyone trusts him.” A remarkable example of 
faith in ones intuition—with Wells, like others, throwing some of his 
not negligible public weight to the Stalinist side. Flattery of major 
Western intellectuals played a part, together with according them the 
glamour of official reception and VIP treatment (described to me by a 
veteran Communist as “banquet politics”). Still, a con job needs a con 
man and a sucker. In their case many suckers even managed not to take in 
what they saw with their own eyes, or rather somehow to process 
unpleasantness mentally into something acceptable. Malcolm 
Muggeridge describes Quakers applauding task parades, feminists 
delighted at the sight of women bowed down under a hundredweight of 
coal, architects in ecstasies over ramshackle buildings just erected and 
already crumbling away. It has been said that many visitors to the USSR 
came with Potemkin villages built into their organs of perception. 
Mind-set seems too strong a word: these were minds like jelly, ready for 
the masters imprint. 

As George Orwell complained, “Huge events like the Ukraine famine 
of 1933, involving the deaths of millions of people, have actually 
escaped the attention of the majority of English russophiles.” As he 
implies, this was an intellectual and moral disgrace on a massive scale. 


Stalin was, in fact, a reader of Machiavelli. He operated on a principle 
advanced indeed by many other sophisticated observers of human 
behavior—one put well in English by Henry Fielding in Jonathan Wild , 
with his leading characters principle “that virtues, like precious stones, 


were easily counterfeited; that the counterfeits in both cases adorned the 
wearer equally, and that very few had knowledge or discernment suffi¬ 
cient to distinguish the counterfeit jewel from the real.” English litera¬ 
ture had, of course, provided an earlier warning against Stalins personal 
influence on Wells and others: “One may smile, and smile, and be a vil¬ 
lain!” None of this readily available wisdom seems to have penetrated 
some minds. 

The components of this deep and dangerous misunderstanding of 
reality were deception and self-deception, and the first could not have 
worked without the second. Indeed, the deception was often at a very 
crude level. For example, the French statesman Edouard Herriot, twice 
Premier of his country, actually went to Ukraine in 1933 and after¬ 
wards denied that any famine had taken place. A visitor to Kiev 
described the preparations for Herriot. The day before his arrival the 
population was required to work from 2:00 A.M. cleaning the streets and 
decorating the houses. Food-distribution centers were closed. Queues 
were prohibited. Homeless children, beggars and starving people disap¬ 
peared. A local inhabitant added that shopwindows were filled with 
food, but that the police dispersed or even arrested local citizens who 
pressed too close (and the purchase of the food was forbidden). The 
streets were washed, the hotel he was to stay in was refurbished, with 
new carpets and furniture and new uniforms for the staff—and similar¬ 
ly in Kharkov, where he was taken to a model childrens settlement. He 
saw the Shevchenko Museum and a tractor factory, and attended meet¬ 
ings and banquets with the Ukrainian Party leaders. As to his (and oth¬ 
ers’) experience of the countryside, this was confined to “model” 
collectives—for example, “Red Star” in the Kharkov province, where all 
the “peasants” were picked Communists and Komsomol members, well 
housed and well fed, the cattle in good condition and tractors always 

Stalin, and his whole leadership, understood human weaknesses, from 
which major Western figures would have considered themselves exempt. 
“O, what a fall was there . . . !” 


The conflict between Soviet reality and Western perceptions had 
become acute in 1933. As we have seen, the Soviet official line was that 
no famine had taken place. Spokesmen from President Kalinin down 

The Great Error: Soviet Myths and Western Minds ♦ izy 

called reports to the contrary inventions by emigre or fascist circles, or 
by Western bourgeois attempting to divert their workers’ attention from 
their own miserable life. But the Soviet line was supported by a whole 
range of Western correspondents and other observers in the USSR. The 
most influential was New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty (who 
seems to have been blackmailed on sexual grounds by the secret police). 

Duranty personally told Eugene Lyons and others that he estimated 
the famine victims at around 7 million. An even clearer proof of the 
discrepancy between what he knew and what he reported is to be found 
in the dispatch of 30 September 1933 from the British charge d’affaires 
in Moscow: “According to Mr Duranty the population of the North 
Caucasus and the Lower Volga had decreased in the past year by three 
million, and the population of the Ukraine by four to five million. The 
Ukraine had been bled white. . . . Mr Duranty thinks it quite possible 
that as many as ten million people may have died directly or indirectly 
from lack of food in the Soviet Union during the past year.” 

What the American public got was not this straight stuff but the 
conclusion that “any report of famine” was “exaggeration or malignant 
propaganda.” The influence of his false reporting was enormous and 

Duranty received the Pulitzer Prize for “dispassionate, interpretive 
reporting of the news from Russia.” The announcement of the prize 
added that Duranty s dispatches were “marked by scholarship, profundi¬ 
ty, impartiality, sound judgment and exceptional clarity,” being “excel¬ 
lent examples of the best type of foreign correspondence.” The Nation, in 
citing the New York Times and Walter Duranty in its annual “honor roll,” 
described his as “the most enlightening, dispassionate and readable dis¬ 
patches from a great nation in the making which appeared in any news¬ 
paper in the world.” 

At a banquet at the Waldorf Astoria to celebrate the recognition of 
the USSR by the United States, a list of names was read, each politely 
applauded by the guests until Walter Durantys was reached; then, 
Alexander Woollcott wrote in The New Yorker ; “the one really prolonged 
pandemonium was evoked. . . . Indeed, one got the impression that 
America, in a spasm of discernment, was recognizing both Russia and 
Walter Duranty.” 

There were a number of reporters like Malcolm Muggeridge, and 
other Westerners who had given firsthand accounts of the realities. 


Thus the Western world was faced with, in effect, two different stories 
about the famine (and about various other Stalinist massacres). Why 
did an intellectual stratum overwhelmingly choose to believe the false 
one? None of this can be accounted for in intellectual terms. To accept 
information about a matter on which totally contradictory evidence 
exists, and in which investigation of major disputes on the matter is pre¬ 
vented, is not a rational act. 

For people who claimed to have used their brains, one can surely suggest 
that they had a duty, a moral duty, to look more carefully at the evidence. 

6 . 

Academics may in the long run have been even more influential than 
people like Walter Duranty in peddling falsehood, if only from their 
particular claim to special knowledge and to the disinterested pursuit of 
truth. Moreover, politicians, media and public took them seriously, and 
right through the Soviet period each ill-informed Western politico or 
editor retained a supposed expert to support his own preconceived 

It was in the 1930s, just when the Soviet system was in its very worst 
phase, that major validation of the enormous set of falsifications with 
which this was concealed came for the first time from Western academ¬ 
ics of the highest standing. 

The stars were, of course, Sidney and Beatrice Webb, the deans of 
Western social science, leaders of the Fabian Society, founders of the 
London School of Economics. The motivations of the Webbs are rea¬ 
sonably clear, and may be divided into two main attitudes, which we 
find in different forms throughout Western pseudological writing on 
the Soviets. First of all, as with others, for them “socialism” was the 
society of the future, in which a government representing the people 
would provide a planned economy, with beneficial results. They thought 
they saw socialism in the USSR, and, of course, so they did. This led, as 
is normal in academic self-deception, to their excusing some of the 
undemocratic reality and denying the rest. As a result, their work was of 
a genre common in literature, but hitherto never applied to a real coun¬ 
try—utopian fantasy. 

The Webbs’ second contribution to this field was also to persist until 
quite recently in some academic circles: they accepted as true the facts, 
figures and so forth published by the Communists. They thought that 

The Great Error: Soviet Myths and Western Minds ♦ llj 

the electoral system, the trade unions, the cooperatives existed in reality 
in the form which in fact existed on paper only. 

The Webbs' book, seen as the last word in serious Western scholar¬ 
ship, ran to over 1,200 pages, representing a vast amount of toil and 
research, all totally wasted. It was originally entitled Soviet Communism: A 
New Civilization ?, but the question mark was triumphantly removed in the 
second edition—which appeared in 1937 at precisely the time the 
regime was in its worst phase of gloomy, all-embracing terror. 

Their view of what they reckoned as the exile of a million-odd fam¬ 
ilies of "kulaks" was that "the Soviet government could hardly have 
acted otherwise," and indeed that "strong must have been the faith and 
resolute the will of the men who, in the interest of what seemed to 
them the public good, could take such a decision." When it comes to 
the famine, they say there was merely spme local food shortage—due, 
anyhow, to "sabotage" by the peasant population. On the faked 
Moscow Trials, they take the view that the confessions of the accused 
were due to their "behaving naturally and sensibly, as Englishmen 
would were they not virtually compelled by their highly artificial legal 
system to go through a routine which is useful to the accused only 
when there is some doubt as to the facts," and that Western observers 
at the trials were convinced that the confessions proved genuine con¬ 
spiracies, and that their reading of the transcript gave them the same 
impression. They advance "a detached and philosophical interpreta¬ 
tion"—to the effect that conspiracies were known in England and 
France some centuries ago, that Russian revolutionaries were by nature 
plotters, and that Lenin had predicted in 1922 that for a long time to 
come there would be doubts, uncertainty, suspicion and treachery—a 
"forecast," they added, "which was borne out by the evidence in the 
Moscow Trials of 1937." They argue that after revolutions "little intel¬ 
lectual freedom on fiercely controversial subjects is apt to be allowed," 
citing the fact that for several generations after the English Revolution 
of 1688, Catholics had no electoral rights. Not quite the same thing as 
mass executions, one may think. 

Of the hundred-odd shot in secret on the morrow of the Kirov mur¬ 
der, they say that they were "undoubtedly guilty of illegal entry and car¬ 
rying bombs," when the only evidence was an official announcement to 
that effect (they have all now been rehabilitated). 

The Webbs' subheadings include: "The Emergence of a Communist 


Conscience,” "The Vocation of Leadership,” ‘‘Ethical Progress in the 
USSR ” "The Maximising of Wealth” and “The Success of Collective 
Agriculture/’ And they speak of “the sense of freedom and equality” 
among the Soviet nations. 

Another British academic, the highly influential Professor Harold 
Laski, took a similar view of the trials, with particular praise for Stalins 
villainous prosecutor Andrei Vyshinsky, who was “doing what an ideal 
Minister of Justice would do if we had such a person in Great Britain.” 

It is significant that the Webbs, as well as Laski, had little knowledge 
of history and approached the evidence from the point of view of ana¬ 
lytical social and political science. We shall come across later examples 
of this often long and laborious, but essentially worthless, type of 

Another leading British academic of the period did not even have 
their excuse of arrogant ignorance. Sir Bernard Pares, Britain's leading 
Russianist, had opposed the Soviets, but changed his mind on arriving in 
Moscow late in 1935, instantly feeling that the Bolsheviks “were Russia.” 
He went on to believe the Soviet version of the trials, adding his own 
fatuous contribution—that “the bulky verbatim reports were in any case 
impressive.” Once again, this inability to imagine that official documents 
could be a pack of lies—and we shall find that even in the 1990s! 

The Webbs were not Marxists but were veterans of the Fabian idea of 
intellectuals penetrating, and transforming, opinion. Their theme was state 
control of the economy, and socialist-intellectual control of the state; and 
when Beatrice Webbs proteges won control of the London County 
Council, the Labour members were put under far tighter discipline than 
those in the House of Commons. She, like that other Fabian socialist 
H. G. Wells, had earlier favored eugenics, though not going to Wellss 
length of suggesting that the non-European races had no future. This posi¬ 
tivist and authoritarian outlook saw much to praise in the USSR. 

What can we conclude? It is clear that people like the Webbs admired 
the ability of the Soviets to enforce their ideas. For them, as for so 
many, one is reminded of Orwell's remark that they always speak of 
what things would be like “under” socialism—under, with them on top. 
And they seem less concerned with the humanitarian side of the social¬ 
ism they professed (and thought they saw in the USSR) than with 
modernity, efficiency and other attributes of the properly organized 
future. As to the “modernity,” Russia was indeed (through no fault of 

The Great Error: Soviet Myths and Western Minds ♦ iz 7 

its new ruler) a backward country. But its direction, seen in its posters 
celebrating the tractor against the horse, its telegraph-era abbrevia¬ 
tions—was of progress made, or about to be made, real. 

There was also even a special operation to make Soviet penal life look 
attractive, with a model prison at Bolshevo and a model wing in the 
Leningrad Transit Prison. Enthusiastic comments came from 
Westerners—such as Lenka von Koerber with her book Soviet Russia 
Fights Crime . The Webbs, D. N. Pritt, Harold Laski and other prominent 
Britons saw and warmly welcomed the vision of this progressive treat¬ 
ment of an old social problem. The value of these operations was 
understood in high Kremlin circles. In newly published police docu¬ 
ments we find under late Stalinism that the Politburo, in full session, 
heard a report on “The visit of the English delegation of the communi¬ 
ty of Quakers to an Industrial Corrective-Labor Colony of the 
Administration of the MVD for Moscow Province, on 27 July, 1951.“ 
One progressive, indeed, Jerzy Gliksman, who had reported favorably 
on Bolshevo, was to find himself in camps more truly indicative of 
Soviet practice in the field and to write a vivid book on them. 

On the intellectual level it is revealing to see some of the most 
respected minds in philosophy, literary criticism, the sciences, falling 
into the fundamentally simplistic political scholasticism, and in too 
many cases into the mental idiocy of pure Sovietophilia. This alone is 
enough to discredit any idea that the notions harbored at any given time 
by a section of intelligentsia are to be taken seriously, except as symp¬ 
toms requiring treatment. 


In this case many had become addicted, to a greater or lesser degree, to 
Marxism. (I don't think “addiction” is too strong a word: perhaps 
someone will consider founding a curative organization called Marxists 
Anonymous.) At the same time, and mainly as part of this phenome¬ 
non, many, as we have seen, became firm believers in a large array of 
falsehoods about the Marxist states, in particular the Soviet Union. 

But let us first insist that it was possible to have radical socialist views 
without being deceived about the Soviet regime—or, if temporarily 
deceived, soon undeceived. On the far left, the Anarchists, of course, 
never had any use for the Marxist-Leninist dictatorships. Conversely, 
there were people with right-wing attitudes who were successfully taken 


in by flattery and falsification—the millionaire American ambassador 
to Moscow Joseph Davies being a prime example. 

Still, the great bulk ol those who forwarded the Stalinist myth in the 
West were, whether Communist or not, members of an amorphous pro¬ 
gressive intelligentsia. The Communist Parties in the West were not the 
only carriers of radical socialist ideas. But they were the best organized, 
and the best funded. Best funded because of massive Soviet subvention. 
Best organized because they had adopted the Leninist quasi-military 
principle of “democratic centralism.” 

But the Westerners who became to one degree or another addicts of 
the Stalinist regime went far beyond the Communist Party member¬ 
ship. They were, generally speaking, from the educated classes—in 
itself a reflection on the insufficiency of education itself to save its 
products from absurd errors. As for formal academe, “political sci¬ 
ence” does not sufficiently take into account those other categories of 
reasons for political error: vanity, credulity, sophistry and all their 
combinations or variants. 

Even apart from those who wholly accepted the Stalinist line and saw 
the Soviet Unions falsified image rather than its reality, the whole intel¬ 
lectual atmosphere was in fact pervaded to a greater or lesser degree by 
extravagant misperception. 

We should note the rarity in the past of what would now be regarded 
in the West as normally humane behavior. Westeners often excluded the 
mere possibility of the mass terror of the Stalin period in Russia. Nor 
did they grasp that an established state could go to such lengths. 

8 . 

Let us return to the “Moscow Trials” of 1936—38—the three public, 
and massively publicized, events at which a series of major Soviet figures 
confessed to espionage, terrorism, treason and sabotage and were then 
executed. Rejection of these grotesque spectacles became the great test 
of unacceptability by the Soviet Union and the Communist Parties 
everywhere. The black Trotskyite C. R. L. James said to a friend, “This 
will open people’s eyes”; his colleague replied more realistically, “No, it 
will close them.” And so to a large degree it turned out. 

Stalin, when one of his police generals expressed doubt as to the 
probable Western reaction, is said to have retorted, “They’ll swallow it.” 
For some it was hard to cope with. When Stephen Spender asked a 

The Creat Error: Soviet Myths and Western Minds ♦ izg 

Communist friend what he made of the trials, the answer was “What 
trials? IVe given up thinking about such things long ago.” 

Others were more enthusiastic. John Strachey, influential as, among 
other things, a supposedly non-Communist member of the three-man 
committee of the supposedly independent (and mass-membered) 
British Left Book Club, wrote, ‘‘I believe that no one who had not unal¬ 
terably fixed his mind on the contrary opinion could read the verbatim 
reports of the trials without being wholly convinced of the authenticity 
of the confessions .” He added, “I can only say that no man can advance 
his political education more than by studying this supreme historical 
document of our time” 

As Julian Symons (himself of the radical though non-Stalinist left) 
says in his The Thirties, the Western intelligentsia who supported the 
Spanish Republican cause had generous motives, “nor did most of them 
realise for some time that they were pawns, used deliberately not for 
Spanish but for Russian ends .” But when it came to the Moscow Trials 
they had no motive but a selfish refusal to face disillusionment—the (as 
he puts it) “winter wind of reality.” His final judgment is, “But they 
had not been deceived. In relation to the Soviet Union they had 
deceived themselves, and in the end one has to pay for such self-deceits.” 

Some of these preconceptions had set in at an early and impression¬ 
able stage of life, or in connection with the professional or political alle¬ 
giance and antipathies formed then. The Australian poet James 
McAuley wrote penetratingly of the pro-Communist phenomenon: 
“During the thirties and forties Australian intellectual life became sub¬ 
jected to an alarming extent to the magnetic field of Communism. All 
sorts of people who would regard themselves as being non-Communist, 
and even opposed to Communism, in practice were dominated by the 
themes and modes of discussion proposed by the Communists, danced 
to the Communist tune, and had serious emotional resistances to being 
identified with any position or institution which was denounced by the 
Communists as ‘reactionary/” He adds that “one reason for all this was 
that schools of thought genuinely independent of and opposed to 
Communist suggestion were in this country not well organised and pub¬ 
licly present . They lacked prestige, that magical aura which captures the 
minds of the young in advance of argument and establishes compelling 
fashions.” And let us recall that it was a much (though wrongly) 
admired Australian historian, Manning Clark, who wrote that Lenin 


was “Christ-like, at least in his compassion/’ and was “as excited and 
loveable as a little child.” 

At any rate, whether in Australia or the United States, Britain or 
France, the mood was the same. Koestler speaks in his autobiography of 
the time when London was full of “the thousands of painters and writ¬ 
ers and doctors and lawyers and debutantes chanting a diluted version 
of the Stalinist line.” 


These delusions trapped some Westerners into total allegiance to the 
Soviet Union, and this included acting as direct agents of its secret 
intelligence services. It is astonishing to find not just the odd example 
but large numbers of cases of this type of mental warp. Much of the 
story is only now emerging, or is only now being fully confirmed—and 
much remains to be discovered. This secondary product of the Stalinist 
penetration of Western scientific and governmental circles became evi¬ 
dent in the 1940s and 1950s, though many, even of the moderate left, 
especially in America, did not accept the fact. 

So we find a sort of mirror-image McCarthyism, with anyone detect¬ 
ing or alleging espionage or other underground activity in favor of the 
Soviet Union being denounced for “smearing” those concerned. This 
was particularly noticeable among scientists. But it expanded to all fields. 
Those subjected to years of slander and professional persecution and to 
whom apology is now due and overdue include such names as Edward 
Teller, treated, as Andrei Sakharov put it, in a “mean” fashion by the 
main body of physicists. Whittaker Chambers was represented as an 
“unstable, pathological liar,” and so forth. He has, of course, been vindi¬ 
cated—not perhaps as to stability but certainly as to truth. Elizabeth 
Bentley was typically described in David Cautes The Great Fear —as late as 
1978!—as a “neurotic liar.” She, too, was totally vindicated by the docu¬ 
ments published by Yale University Press a few years ago. 

Though the American Communists denounced those like Chambers 
and Bentley who had defected from Soviet control, it was not only 
Communists who took up the theme. Those who had been involved but 
later thought better of the Stalinist enterprise, and done their best to 
expose the underground network devoted to the destruction of the 
United States in its favor, were attacked as renegades and informers. 
They were indeed in a sense renegades, though those who had deserted 

The Great Error: Soviet Myths and Western Minds ♦ /j / 

democracy for Stalinism surely were at least equally deserving of that 
epithet. They had “informed”—at a time when those they were expos¬ 
ing had been “informing” the Soviet secret agencies. But it is the child¬ 
ish tone of the attacks on these deserving characters that is most 
striking—they were treated as “snitches.” 

In seeing the motives of those who became Soviet spies as ideological, 
we must also surely look at their psychological makeup. This seems to 
have varied, and is in any case hard to establish. Of the British spy rings 
and also of the blindness of the establishment on which they battened, 
Anthony Powell, a novelist without any special interest in politics, makes 
some very shrewd observations in the second volume of his autobiogra¬ 
phy, Messengers of Day. He speaks of the slight connections he and friends 
of his had with Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess. He quotes his friend 
Adrian Daintrey, the painter, a man without the least interest in politics, 
as quite clear as early as 1935 that Maclean was a Communist, while he 
himself noted the drunkenness, violence and conceit that led Maclean 
into trouble with his superiors—who, however, positively basked in their 
own tolerance and magnanimity in letting him get away with it. Maclean 
was “the fonctionnaire who wishes to be ‘different,' a not unfamiliar cate¬ 
gory, carried to its logical conclusions; the complete reversal of conven¬ 
tional behavior, while remaining in conventional circles.” But Burgess, 
only a temporary government employee, was “a notorious scallywag, to 
whom no wholly baked person, among those set in authority, would ever 
have dreamt of entrusting the smallest responsibility, or access to secrets 
of even a low grade classification. In fact, if Maclean is the supreme 
exemplar of the civil servant who wants to be ‘different,’ Burgess is equal¬ 
ly representative of the manner in which official bodies (noticeable, too, 
in the army) lack as a rule the faintest idea of what an individual is ‘like.’” 
Powell had personally met Burgess once, and described him at the time as 
“nauseating”—his main point, however, being that the meeting had 
taken place “in the house of a distinguished member of the Treasury.” 

These traitors were misled, one of them, Anthony Blunt, tells us, 
about the USSR. But to be in error is not the same as to become a trai¬ 
tor. One may feel that those who undertook a life of crime, of treason 
and espionage, were under a particularly strong duty to examine the 
record of their prospective employer; and that in the case of Burgess, 
Maclean and their accomplices this lack of intellectual skepticism was 
in itself already so irresponsible as to constitute a moral offense. Blunts 


excuse for his later activism was that he could not “betray his 
friends”—who were betraying the millions of his compatriots. The 
moral squalor of this principle of a Cambridge clique—to put ones 
friend (i.e., Burgess) before ones country (i.e., Britain)—does not even 
now seem to strike Blunt s not very various defenders. 

So we find that Blunts defense rests mainly on a false appeal to anti- 
Fascism (since he spied on through the Nazi-Soviet Pact) and a recourse 
to the Mafia morality of solidarity in crime. He fails, except in passing, 
even to rise to the level of defending his right and duty to follow his 
Stalinist convictions. 

But what should be our answer to such a defense, whether from the 
Blunts or the Joyces, the Berias or the Eichmanns? I have yet to see a bet¬ 
ter answer than John Sparrows thesis that their guilt “is not mitigated 
by the fact that they believed their aim to be a good one; they must be 
judged ultimately by reference to the cause to which they dedicated 
themselves. . . . If it seems hard to condemn a man on moral grounds 
for an intellectual error in the choice of ends . . . the answer is surely 
that the lie that betrays him is a lie in the soul; that the causes men ded¬ 
icate themselves to . . . reveal the kind of person that they really are.” 
Blunt and Burgess and the others brought to a rotten cause a rottenness 
that was already in them. 

The detection of such horrors is the job of the security services. But 
there is a political element, in that—in Blunts case at least—there was 
some feeling expressed that he should not be further victimized, though 
the victims of this gang included a Soviet secret police defector sent 
back to torture and death, and scores of Albanian democrats sent to 
their deaths in a betrayed incursion. 

At any rate, a problem remains, in that a number of minds are still 
tolerant, or at least forgiving, of offenses committed on “ideological” 
grounds with which they feel some sort of vague sympathy. This recalls 
what Peter Yiereck once described as the “awful cocktail party chic of 
tolerance” towards totalitarianism—the sort of thing that led to the 
denunciation as fanatics of academics who objected to too hospitable a 
reception in the United States of literary KGB veterans at a time when 
Joseph Brodsky and the like were sweating it out in the Arctic. 

As to scientists, it might have been thought that the number of those 
who were admittedly guilty of espionage—Fuchs, Nunn May, 
Pontecorvo, etc.—had been enough to destroy the image of scientists as 

The Great Error: Soviet Myths and Western Minds ♦ /jj 

being immune to the Stalinist virus. But there seems to be no connection 
between scientific prowess and any immunity to totalitarian ideas (as we 
have seen with the Nazis). What was odder was the argument to the con¬ 
trary from a wide range of scientific minds themselves not Communist. 
An absurd example was the rallying of his fellow anthropologists in 
defense of the Soviet agent Mark Zborowski. But the sciences gave many 
examples of what was no better than at best a professional loyalty or a 
personal tie taking precedence over objective fact. As late as the 1990s 
there were many who were almost ostentatiously '‘in denial.” 

10 . 

Another area of misunderstanding was to be seen in business circles. 
Ronald Hingley, a frequent visitor to the old USSR, once wrote that the 
biggest Western dupes he came across there were scientists and business¬ 
men. In both cases there were many exceptions. But misunderstanding of 
the whole nature of the order had some odd results in the economic field. 

Extravagant misconceptions about the Soviet and East European 
economies had been endemic in all sorts of circles. Representatives of 
high capitalism had, off and on since Lenins time, seen it as in a mirage, 
as a universally promising venue for trade and investment. 

Astonishing bouts of optimism about the possibilities of American- 
Soviet trade recurred. Sometimes this went with the idea that the more 
the trade the better the political relationship (though Russian-German 
trade had reached its highest points in 1913 and 1940). 

The Soviet Union had, in fact, become largely autarkic. When the 
United States recognized the USSR in 1933, trade between the two 
countries declined throughout the following decade to a level of less 
than one sixth of what it had been before. 

During World War II various economic experts in America predicted 
(in the words of Eric Johnston, then President of the Chamber of 
Commerce) that “Russia will be, if not our biggest, at least our most 
eager customer when the war ends” (Nations Business, October 1944). He 
was supported by a poll carried out by Fortune magazine in 1945, which 
showed that business executives had more faith in Soviet postwar inten¬ 
tions than any other group in the American population. The same mag¬ 
azine estimated that U.S. exports to the USSR would range between 
one and two billion dollars, while the U.S. Bureau of Foreign and 
Domestic Commerce had suggested (in October 1943) that not less 


than a third of American exports would go to Russia after the war. In 
fact, U.S. exports to Russia during the postwar period were much less 
than I percent of the total. 

Such misreading of the Communist system continued. A more materi¬ 
ally damaging example came in the 1980s r when (encouraged by govern¬ 
ments) Western banks gave vast credits to Poland, which merely 
prolonged the misery, lined pockets and led to the writing off of the 
debts, so that, except for crooks, no one at all benefited! (It was particularly 
irritating that Chase Manhattan, with whom I once banked, gave the 
Polish government better terms than what we ordinary depositors were 

A more general misunderstanding of the Soviet economy remained 
widespread in the West. Alain Besan^on noted in 1980: 

The Soviet economy is the subject of a considerable volume of scholarly 
work, which occupies numerous study centres in Europe and the United 
States and which provides material for a vast literature and various aca¬ 
demic journals. But those born in the Soviet Union, or those who 
approach Soviet society through history, literature, travel or through lis¬ 
tening to what the emigres have to say, find that they cannot recognise 
what the economists describe. There seems to be an unbridgeable gap 
between this system, conceived through measurement and figures, and the 
other system, without measurement and figures, which they have come to 
know through intuition and their own actual experience. It is an astonish¬ 
ing feature of the world of Soviet affairs that a certain kind of economic 
approach to Soviet reality, no matter how well-informed, honest and 
sophisticated, is met with such absolute scepticism and total disbelief by 
those who have a different approach that they do not even want to offer 
any criticism—it being impossible to know where to begin. 

The fullest study, sponsored by the CIA, was highly misleading. They 
did not, it is true, actually accept official Soviet figures. But they took 
them, since they were the only figures available, as the basis of their 
analysis, assuming that they were distorted or exaggerated in certain 
respects, but still useful. In fact, they were not distorted, they were 
invented. Once again, there was a defect in the imagination of the 
Western researchers. In 1984, Orwell has Winston Smith sitting in 
front of the telescreen watching a minister announcing to triumphal 
trumpets that 50 million pairs of boots had been produced last year. 

The Great Error: Soviet Myths and Western Minds ♦ l jj 

Winston Smith, quite apathetically, and with no special political 
thought, says to himself- that for all he knows, no boots at all were pro¬ 
duced. Orwell understood Soviet statistics; academic economists didn’t. 

And all this is to say nothing of such comments as that of John 
Kenneth Galbraith in 1984, in the true Webb tradition, that the “Soviet 
system has made great economic progress in recent years. . . . One can 
see it in the appearance of solid well being of the people in the streets,” 
adding that, in particular, unlike Western economies, the Soviet “makes 
full use of its man-power”—a staggering misstatement. 

11 . 

The original euphoric approach appeared to die of shock following the 
signature of the Nazi-Soviet Pact, the invasion of Poland, the war 
against Finland and seizure of the Baltic states. Western true believers, 
including most of those in Soviet spy rings, indeed held that the Soviet 
Union was the unique hope of future progress, and that its actions must 
still be supported, whatever the twists and turns, in what it saw as the 
necessities of foreign policy. But most earlier Sovietophiles went into a 
sort of mental hibernation, from which they emerged when Hitler 
attacked the USSR in 1941. Odder still, earlier non-Communist liberal 
delusions also reemerged: in particular that Stalin could be trusted to 
cooperate in a wartime and postwar alliance for peace and progress. 

To different degrees, this much affected governmental circles in the 
West, in spite of a long accumulation of evidence against it, until well 
into the postwar years. By the late 1940s two matters seemed clear. 
First, that the Stalin regime was pursuing a foreign policy of hostility to 
the West, and an internal policy of suppressing all Western ideas. At the 
same time, a vast body of evidence had been available about the terror, 
the Gulag, the whole truth. Moreover, what remained of the imaginary 
high ground had been destroyed by Orwell, Koestler, Serge and the 
other strong minds now emerging. (The British Communist leadership 
had a special meeting on how to combat Orwell, Koestler and the brief 
but very effective quarterly Polemic ; edited by the highest-ranked British 
officer in the Spanish War, Humphrey Slater—which may for compara¬ 
tive purposes remind us that all three of the successive commanders of 
the British Battalion in the International Brigade in Spain, with many 
others, had now left the Communist Party, realizing that they had been 
made use of.) 


12 . 

However, the Stalinists rallied. As before, opposition to Communism 
was almost never countered by rational argument. As George Orwell 
wrote, critics of the Soviet system were called “rabidly anti- 
Communist.” He adds: 

The upshot is that if from time to time you express a mild distaste for 
slave-labour camps or one-candidate elections, you are either insane or 
actuated by the worst motives. In the same way, when Henry Wallace is 
asked by a newspaper interviewer why he issues falsified versions of his 
speeches to the press, he replies: “So you are one of these people who are 
clamouring for war with Russia.” There is the milder kind of ridicule that 
consists in pretending that a reasoned opinion is indistinguishable from 
an absurd out-of-date prejudice. If you do not like Communism you are a 

The United States, though not Western Europe, had the McCarthy 
experience. (Russians have seriously suggested to me that he was a Soviet 
agent—he had had Communist help in his own election in Wisconsin!) 
At any rate, he disgraced anti-Communism in the eyes of many, by wild 
or false accusations. 

McCarthyism was a temporary aberration. Its longer-term effects 
were that in some intellectual circles, by a sort of mind-clenching, the 
term was used not only of false accusations of collaboration with the 
Soviets but also of true ones. His naming of Professor Owen Lattimore 
as the leading Soviet agent in the United States was absurd (a false accu¬ 
sation, rejection of which, to this day, leads to denial of the plain fact 
that Lattimore was an active and devoted adherent of the Soviet cause). 

“McCarthyism” remained a potent myth in intellectual circles. In 
fact, it figures in many historical tests in universities as a major matter in 
American history—with accounts of the realities of Soviet penetration 
of U.S. agencies omitted. Indeed, the myth remained so strong that 
when Angela Davis—not only an admitted Communist but actually the 
CPUSAs vice presidential candidate—came to speak at Stanford 
University, the student paper referred to her simply as an “activist.” 
When queried on why they didn't, truly and legitimately, call her a 
Communist, the editor said that this would be McCarthyism! 

More broadly, the epithet has almost achieved the comprehensive 
applicability Orwell noted of the word “fascism.” In the late 1990s I 

The Great Error: Soviet Myths and Western Minds ♦ 

note it used by the Russian ambassador to Bulgaria of that country’s 
government, when it complained of espionage; and by the Italian press 
(“macartismo”) when the Los Angeles Times printed an article pointing out 
that the film II Postino was about a Stalinist writer indoctrinating a young 
man to go to his death in the Stalinist interest, thus supposedly causing 
it to lose an Oscar. 

In the 1950s the lines thus drawn had led many on the left, at least in 
the United States, to refuse, as we have said, to credit any accusations of 
treason in favor of the Soviet Union. It is hard to see how anyone who 
had read Nathan Glazer’s excerpts from and analysis of the court trial 
of the Rosenbergs could have had any doubt that the Rosenbergs served 
as Soviet agents. Something similar could be said of the Hiss case. 

At the time, American politics were also very heavily traumatized by 
the Communist takeover, in 1949, of mainland China. Blame for this 
disaster ran largely along partisan lines. The Republicans, or their Senate 
leadership, had moreover for some time supported McCarthy. When 
McCarthyism collapsed, the Democrats, or a large section of them, 
attacked genuine investigations of real Communist penetration as part of 
the McCarthyite “witch-hunt.” Richard Nixon and other members of 
the House Un-American Activities Committee (and their counterparts 
at Sacramento) were held to have been mean, partisan, unjudicial, tricky, 
driven by ambition. No doubt such points are legitimate; but they should 
hardly be allowed to obscure the main issue. Was Nixon right? He was. 

13 . 

In other Western countries experiences differed. Nevertheless, in France, 
in particular, non-Communist, or anti-Communist, attitudes were sub¬ 
jected in academe to all the persecution available to those without con¬ 
trol of the machinery of state. The evidence of Soviet reality, such things 
as the Gulag, was met by the dominantly influential Jean-Paul Sartre with 
two arguments. First, that the evidence was unofficial (though he accept¬ 
ed precisely similar testimony about French misconduct in Algeria); sec¬ 
ond, that such evidence would throw the French proletariat into despair. 
He added, “As we were neither members of the party nor avowed sympa¬ 
thisers it was not our duty to write about Soviet labour camps; we were 
free to remain aloof from the quarrel over the nature of this system, pro¬ 
vided no events of sociological significance had occurred.” 

French intellectual servility to Stalinism reached its zenith when, in 


January 1953, the announcement was made in Moscow of the discov¬ 
ery of the “Doctors’ Plot,” in which leading Soviet physicians, mostly 
Jews, were accused of plotting to kill Soviet leaders on the instructions 
of Zionist, American and British intelligence. A group of leading 
French doctors at once—not even waiting for the supposed evidence— 
publicly denounced their unfortunate Soviet colleagues, who were, 
however, declared innocent by Moscow a couple of months after 
Stalins death. 

Meanwhile, Stalin’s death had evoked a funerary ode by Pablo 
Neruda (omitted from the current English edition of his works). 
Neruda, calling Stalin “the moon” and “the maturity of man and the 
peoples,” writes that we must learn his “sincere intensity” and “concrete 
clarity” and take pride in the title “Stalinist.” However, “the light has 
not vanished” since (Neruda rather lamely concludes) “Malenkov will 
continue his work.” 

The German record is even more unbelievable. Many West German 
academics, journalists and others were successfully deceived, not about 
distant Russia but about their own countrymens existence in next-door 
Communist East Germany. Delegations were successfully potemkined. 
And in particular, the economic state of the “German Democratic 
Republic” was grotesquely misunderstood—as became obvious after the 
Wall fell. Moreover, this was largely a debacle of German academe. As 
Timothy Garton Ash has said, “Whole West German institutes were 
devoted to failing to understand the East German economy.” 

The prominent intellectuals and others thus deceived were at best 
naive; but they were neither morally nor intellectually entitled to such 
naivete. At worst, they were conscious agents of what they knew, at 
some level, to be a terrorist dictatorship. 

I register such things not so much for their intrinsic importance as in 
the context of what can only be called a form of mental incapacitation. 


As the Soviet Union became less dreadful under Stalins successors, it 
became less popular in the West. This was partly because knowledge about 
its horrible past was now widely available, partly because the regimes abil¬ 
ity to prevent access to its actual condition was now less effective. 

In 1956 Khrushchevs Secret Speech, detailing some of the frame- 
ups and tortures carried out by his predecessor, alienated many. 

At the time of the execution of Imre Nagy in 1958, the leader of the 

The Great Error: Soviet Myths and Western Minds ♦ lyg 

British Communist Party, Harry Pollitt, privately told the Pravda corre¬ 
spondent in London that “the basic reason for the weakness of the 
English Communist Party is the policies of the CPSU. All our crises 
come to us from abroad/’ Pollitt, the Pravda man added, had said that 
the sentence on Nagy was “a failure from the point of view of the situ¬ 
ation in the Western countries/’ Of course, this was, in one sense, 
because no effort was made to produce a faked public trial. Once again 
we see the USSR as more unpopular in the comparatively moderate 
post-Stalin period than at the height of Stalinist terror— because of the 
completeness of falsification in the earlier phase. 1 

Difficulties had already arisen over the original intervention against 
the Hungarian Revolution in 1956. Ilya Ehrenburg, then a member of 
the Communist Front World Peace Council, reported in December of 
that year that many of its branches were against “our action/’ with only 
“the Brazilian, Austrian and Finnish movements’’ remaining supportive. 
But what is surprising and symptomatic is that there was a persistent 
drift back from this shock therapy into a renewal of pro-Soviet delu¬ 
sions. The invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 was even more a rubbing 
of sensitive noses in reality. Again, while many were permanently cured, 
the 1970s saw (for example) Britain’s Labour National Executive 
Committee holding “party to party” talks with the Communist Party of 
the Soviet Union, represented by Stalin’s veteran Comintern thug Boris 
Ponomarev—and this at just the time when Moscow was rearresting the 
octogenarian leaders of Baltic Social Democracy, who had already 
served long sentences for, in effect, Labour views. But the then NEC, or 
its advisers, contrived not to know these things. 

The matter of the Soviet past and present was thus grasped only 
temporarily and inadequately. Still, each new outbreak of disillusion¬ 
ment brought its contribution of understanding. Professor Mark 
Almond at Oxford has argued that the debacle of the Sandinistas had 
an even greater effect on the older revolution-groupies than did events 
in the Soviet Union itself 

On the other side of the account, one of the most extraordinary 
changes in the European consciousness was what took place in France 
after the publication there of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag 
Archipelago. Over quite a short period, and no doubt it would be simplis¬ 
tic to credit it merely to that one cause, not only did the Soviet Union 
lose its appeal, but Marxism itself became (as is now said) only viable 
among an older stratum of village schoolteachers. French intellectual 


circles had experienced something like a Marxist monopoly. Now this 
was suddenly and catastrophically ended—so much so that French 
intellectuals now complain about the primitive Marxism found in other 
Western countries. 


As with the Webbs in the 1930s, we still find in the 1960s examples of 
admiration for the USSR precisely because it was bureaucratic. C. P. 
Snow, in his relations with the Soviets, favored fearful cultural appa¬ 
ratchiks like Alexei Surkov and Yuri Zhdanov out of what I called 
“Burintern solidarity/’ I added that 

one is reminded of the controversy between Lord Acton and Bishop 
Creighton, when the Anglican was inclined to excuse Innocent Ills perse¬ 
cutions on administrative grounds, while the Catholic condemned them 
absolutely for reasons of inhumanity. Each of these solidarities—the 
bureaucratic and the humanist—in fact transcend mere political and reli¬ 
gious allegiance. On any barricade I can think of, there is many a commu¬ 
nist I should prefer to have on my side than Snow. 

In the West full understanding and direct pro-Soviet views were 
indeed now incompatible. Various “social” falsehoods still circulated— 
for example, that the Soviet health service was in an admirable condi¬ 
tion. In fact, the main distortions were now that the USSR was not an 
ideal but still an economic and social success; that it was at least better 
than, or no worse than, America; that it was a normal political entity in 
international affairs; and (for anti-Americans, but here not untruly) that 
it was anti-American. 

And even to this day one reads such comments in Western academe 
as that anti-Communism strongly resembled Communism, the two 
being merely opposite and contrasting ideologies. Like antifascism 
and fascism? But the point here is not the obvious one (that to be 
against Communism meant for most people opposition to terrorist 
dictatorship) but that Western academics can still speak in this way— 
even perhaps think in this way. 

Understanding that Stalin (and his regime) was monstrous and mur¬ 
derous is a minimum requirement for acceptance into civilized discourse. 
It should also have been clear that the post-Stalin Soviet Union, though 
no longer employing mass physical terror, continued to enforce a set of 

The Great Error: Soviet Myths and Western Minds ♦ 141 

erroneous and virulent ideas on the minds of the citizens, and to punish 

All the same, many only partly taken in by the Soviet line remained 
unconvinced that the issue was important. They realized that lies were 
being told and terror inflicted, even that the USSR did not look all that 
good. But they did not care; they still felt a measure of attraction to it, 
and an ability to forget the negative side. Some still saw the USSR as a 
respectable Socialist state; others as, it perhaps sometimes insufficiently 
active, a revolutionary standard-bearer for the world leading the 
Guevaras and such to victory. 

It is true that, unlike the Cubans themselves, many revolutionary 
groups were now anti-Soviet on sectarian grounds, being (for example) 
pro-Beijing instead—the facts of Maoism having not yet emerged so 
starkly as those of Stalinism. Still, on Central American matters in par¬ 
ticular, the old revolutionary romanticism fitted into Soviet policy. This 
adolescent revolutionism has proved hard for reality to reach. A friend 
of mine was in the main hotel in Managua when the results of the elec¬ 
tion in which the Sandinistas were defeated came through on television. 
He tells me that several West European leftists present broke into tears. 

The Sandinista story may remind us of the projection onto very dif¬ 
ferent countries of a variety of concepts long unfamiliar in the West, 
but having something of a romantic or emotional appeal. We still see 
the idealization of supposed “peasant revolutions’' of one sort or 
another, which will distribute the land to the “peasantry.” We heard a lot 
about Mao Tse-tung’s movement as a peasant uprising with agrarian 
reform as its central aim, and similarly with the Vietcong. This long¬ 
standing attitude, transferred from country to country as its expecta¬ 
tions are, over the years, seen to fail by all but the most verbal-visioned, 
seems based on a whole set of muddles. It is usually found in countries 
like England and America, where peasants have long ceased to exist— 
and where most of the proponents of “land distribution” elsewhere 
would not urge anything similar at home. The peasants of many Third 
World countries are indeed to one degree or another “oppressed,” 
though not as much as under collectivization in Russia or the equivalent 
despotic disaster in Ethiopia. And, as Orwell says, it is common for rev¬ 
olutionaries to hate the system much more than they pity its victims. 
This would mean that, at least in many cases, ideology becomes a sort 
of mental trap. And when its bearers come to power they are, or are 


often, stuck with a program that produces far worse suffering among 
the peasantry than what was theirs under the original oppressors. 

The secondary infection, by which revolutionary myths fill the minds 
of some members of the intellegentsia in our own countries, is some¬ 
thing we cannot afford. How easily it can happen is revealed in almost 
incredible fashion by the student demonstrations in South Korea calling 
for unity with North Korea on North Korean terms. It has been 
explained that these students were very ill informed about real condi¬ 
tions in the North; but the probability seems to be that they were well 
enough “informed” but rejected the information as coming from their 
own establishment. 

The advantages of the “left” regimes and movements in the eyes of 
the world media have thus not disappeared. They do not have to pursue 
“left” policies so much as to adopt “left” stances. Anthony Howard, 
then editor of the left-wing New Statesman } once pointed out that if 
Huey Long had only used left-wing phraseology he would have enjoyed 
wide support from the New York and London intelligentsia. 

Much of the world thus emerged in many minds as a simple pattern 
of progressive states—good and never called dictatorships, and right- 
wing states—bad, and often oppressive (similarly, “death squads” were 
always right-wing). All determined by preconception—sometimes 
roughly applicable, sometimes absurd. We may note, though, that this 
was, and still often is, very largely directed at areas of the world of 
which the enthusiast has no direct knowledge, and that once imprinted 
he or she becomes immune to genuine information—as with the Soviet 

Above all (as we shall develop in a later chapter), many agreed with 
the charge that Western intentions and armaments were to blame for the 
Cold War. It was largely on this basis that Soviet influence was— 
again!—brought to bear, with joint action by committed Western 
Communists and an array of progressives, as with the CND (Campaign 
for Nuclear Disarmament) in the United Kingdom. This mass organiza¬ 
tion publicly encouraged, and used the organizational skills of, the 
British Communist Party—that is, of a keen supporter of Soviet 
nuclear armaments. A friend of mine was at a public meeting when an 
open Communist, one of the speakers’ platform, said that American 
policy would result in atom bombs on London. “Who’ll drop those 
bombs?” my friend asked. And answer came there none. 

The Great Error: Soviet Myths and Western Minds 

♦ H3 


Meanwhile, both politicians and media now—still—sought the 
expressed opinions of “experts” on the Soviet phenomenon—some of 
whom were indeed under the influence of the remnants of Stalinism in 
the academy, but others of whom were well-meaning crackpots, or con¬ 
cerned to give the USSR, past and present, a fair deal. The whole ques¬ 
tion of “good motives” thus arises. But if you are in any sort of public 
position, or one in which you can in any way influence the public and 
the political leadership, and your judgment is, or could be, disastrous, 
the excuse seems inadequate. 

Incredibly enough, as with the de-demonization of Hitler by the 
“institutionalist" academics in Germany, a new wave of Webb-style atti¬ 
tudes to the Stalinist phenomenon splashed over academe in the late 
1980s—just at the time when the Soviet authorities themselves were 
massively validating the appalling realities. 

A certain proportion of academics seem—and not only in this con¬ 
text—notably prejudiced against realities and persuaded by smoke and 
mirrors. We shall consider this phenomenon in its broader aspects, that is, 
in connection with the whole question of negative forces in education, in 
a later chapter. But meanwhile, we should note that knowledge and under¬ 
standing of the Soviet phenomenon in particular was—and still is—defi¬ 
cient in the very professional circles supposedly devoted to its study. 

As a broad generalization, we may say that in the postwar period, and 
into the sixties and seventies, the study of Russia was largely carried out 
by professors whose various expertise had taken them into active partici¬ 
pation in matters of military and foreign-political importance. They 
were veterans of reality as well as of study. The deskbound professor of 
the prewar period, who was to emerge again in the next academic gener¬ 
ation, was much less in evidence. 

One of those then writing was Merle Fainsod, who in 1953 pro¬ 
duced his excellent study How Russia Is Ruled, which he revised well in 
1963. And here, alas, we are led into the first signs of trouble. After 
Fainsod’s death, by a mischance too complicated to go into here, the 
task of producing a new edition fell to a young scholar, Jerry Hough. 

Hough changed the title to the more polite How the Soviet Union Is 
Governed[ and used the prestige of the original, adding, “By Jerry F. 
Hough and Merle Fainsod. Revised and enlarged by Jerry F. Hough.” 
But the “revising” consisted of reversing and distorting the whole work. 


To take a particularly revealing example: Fainsods index gives over sixty 
references to forced labor camps; Hough’s revision gives none. Again, 
while Fainsod spoke of millions of victims of Stalinism, Hough had a 
totally contrary view, speaking in terms of ten thousand or so shot. In 
his pseudo-Fainsod he takes the same view, though there and later 
admitting a possibility of “a figure in the low hundreds of thousands.” 
Of course, even then the question was how many millions, or tens of 
millions, as is now fully confirmed in Russia. A single one of the mass 
graves lately dug up there holds more than Hough’s original estimate. 
We should note that Hough’s version of Fainsod was—and still is—a 

Hough (who, it may be noted, was trained in institutional and socio¬ 
logical formulations rather than in history) also described Brezhnevs 
Soviet Union in strange terms. “The Soviet system [is] a very participa¬ 
tory one”; “the regime has become more tolerant of individual icono- 
clasm, including political dissent, than it was ... in the Khrushchev 
era”; “Brezhnev came to power promising normalcy, and it was a pledge 
that he kept”; the Soviet Union is “a parliamentary system of a special 
type.” “Pluralist” was a term also much used, not only by Hough (who 
also saw the Soviet and British constitutions as similar). 

Hough is to be taken into account if only because he still figures (or 
did until very recently) as a guru on television and in the other media. 
And he was an influential precursor of (though not as negative as) the 
“revisionists” who came to notice in the late 1980s. 

These formed a group which claimed to present a truer picture of 
the Stalin period than that prevailing among what they called “Cold 
War” Sovietologists. Their general theme was that the terror had been 
fairly minor—one American proponent wrote (like Hough) of “thou¬ 
sands” executed and “many thousands” imprisoned—the dead later 
raised to over 30,000, later still to over 600,000. This last figure relies 
on two KGB documents from the 1950s and 1960s. Both can be shown 
to be invalid. The first was repudiated by the Security Ministry General 
who made it public. The second produced figures for 1939—40 much 
lower than the proven executions of March—April 1940. Moreover, con¬ 
siderably higher figures have been given by the government, party and 
security officials concerned. The establishment of such figures is always 
one of the most refractory of historical tasks; and earlier historians had 
given estimates based on the evidence then available which were in cer- 

The Great Error: Soviet Myths and Western Minds ♦ i/fj 

tain respects too high, though long since suitably amended. But for the 
new sect, playing down the extent of the terror was not the only point: 
they also held that terror is not in any case of major importance, since 
institutional and social changes were the true essence of the period— 
though terror affecting millions directly and the whole population indi¬ 
rectly might also be thought of as a social phenomenon. They were also 
interested in the rise of new cadres, but not in the criteria for their pro¬ 
motion—servility, brutality, and coarseness of mind, constituting what, 
as we have said, is now called in Russia a “negative selection” of the new 
ruling class. Nor were they interested in the methods of personnel 
change—the denunciation and execution of predecessors. Others of 
this school wrote of the collectivization in a similar vein, as a social 
change, and they praised the party emissaries from the cities who effect¬ 
ed it—i.e., bullied the peasants into submission. 

Part of the trouble seems to be that they were (like Hough) sociolo¬ 
gists by training, rather than historians, and sought (in rather the same 
context as that which produced Marxism) the structural rather than the 
essential, the form rather than the content. This also led them, like the 
Webbs before them, to accept official documents as better evidence than 
what they referred to as “anecdotal” accounts—that is, the firsthand 
testimony of actual witnesses which contradicted the official picture. As 
we now know, this unofficial evidence was vastly superior to the official, 
and even when not conclusive was not simply one vast fake, like the 
Communist product. 

Once when I referred to the 1939 Soviet census as a “fake,” one expert 
replied that no census was perfect, but that I was not thereby entitled to 
pick and choose which census I accepted. My objections to the 1939 
census were: that the census taken in 1937 had been suppressed and the 
Census Board shot for “diminishing the population of the Soviet 
Union” so that the new Census Board had some incentive to exaggerate 
the numbers; that these new figures were announced in 1939 before the 
new Census Board had delivered its figures; and so on. All obvious 
enough, and Soviet publications soon confirmed the obvious—that mil¬ 
lions reported in the 1939 document “existed only on paper.” Yes, offi¬ 
cial, “documented” evidence was totally worthless—and a tiny modicum 
of common sense should have made this plain even to an academic. 

Of course, Soviet materials published in the late 1980s and the 
1990s have destroyed these and similar delusions. Or so you might 


think; but you would be underestimating the skill of the academic mind 
in devising evasive stratagems. Even in the true sciences, deep intellectu¬ 
al investment in what turns out to be fallacy is not easily given up. 

Some of these scholars manques were praised in predemocratic days in 
articles in Moscow by reactionary Soviet writers, who described them as 
“objective”—a traditional Soviet expression meaning reasonably uncritical 
of the old official line. In Pravda of 2 October 1990, the establishmenteer 
Professor Viktor Danilenko observed that there was a “new look” in for¬ 
eign Sovietology. This was, he said, “welcome,” for (in his view) it had 
“sharply raised the prestige of the professors of Sovietology. . . . Anti- 
Sovietism has begun to disappear from the works of contemporary 
Sovietologists/’ Just as it had in the time of the Webbs! 

As one who was himself categorized a few weeks later at a plenum of 
the Central Committee, by the Stalinist writer Alexander Chakovski, as 
“anti-Sovietchik number one,” I am well qualified to define this anti- 
Sovietism Danilenko complained about: determination to deploy the 
realities of Soviet history and the nature of the Stalinist mind-set. The 
revival of Stalinist attitudes in some circles in Russia in the mid-nineties 
has similarly led to a search by Moscow hard-liners for arguments from 
Westerners supporting the pro-Soviet stance. 

The proponents of perverse reinterpretations were not in themselves 
very impressive, but they seemed novel and so “exciting” to uninformed 
editors, obtained academic posts and thus indoctrinated students. For 
even apart from revisionists proper, as the postwar years rolled on, the 
veterans had been increasingly replaced by a more mediocre (and less 
experienced) generation. Students were instructed that true scholarship 
must not be “judgmental.” In lay terms this meant not only that ver¬ 
dicts, however soundly and factually based, must be avoided, but also 
that lines of research likely to lead to verdicts were discouraged. The 
safe subjects were those like “Cotton Prices in Uzbekistan’ —thus 
peripheral research began to be the road to tenure. 

Truly deleterious approaches, though sometimes published by univer¬ 
sity presses, are probably of little effect in improving the Stalinist image 
in the public mind, or even in the mind of what may be called the gener¬ 
al intelligentsia as apart from a narrow academic substratum. A less inde¬ 
fensible, or less obviously indefensible, rehabilitation of the October 
Revolution is still occasionally, though not often, to be met in rather 
more impressive circles. At any rate, one historian, though Marxist histo¬ 
rian, of repute and influence, Eric Hobsbawm, has lately argued: 

The Great Error: Soviet Myths and Western Minds ♦ 14 J 

• that Lenin in 1917 won the rural masses by his support, “contrary to 
the socialist programme,” of the division of the land among the peas¬ 
antry. Yes, he tried this maneuver, but they voted overwhelmingly 
against him in the elections he then held; 

• that the proletariat were pro-Bolshevik, then and later, and indeed 
pushed Lenin forward. But the experienced proletariat—the railway- 
men and the printers—opposed the Bolshevik takeover. And even with¬ 
in the new proletariat at the big factories such as the Putilov Works, 
where the Bolsheviks had gained organizational control (though not on 
a program of one-party dictatorship), workers were criticized by Lenin 
within weeks of the seizure of power for lack of “zeal and discipline” 
and the “stubborn tradition” of asking the Soviet government for less 
work and (“even worse”) more pay. In 1918, of course, the factories 
voted in Mensheviks and other non-Bolsheviks and came out in mas¬ 
sive strikes that Lenin put down (in his own words) “mercilessly,” with 
major workers’ risings in several industrial towns; while in 1921 the 
workers in Petrograd were closely linked with the Kronstadt Rebellion; 

• that Lenin did not enforce socialist measures (this based on a remark 
of his in January 1918). But from May of that year he did enforce 
extreme “socialist” measures—as he several times admitted (and admit¬ 
ted as failures) after they were abandoned, under huge popular pres¬ 
sure, in 1921. In one of several similar comments he said: “We made 
the mistake of deciding to change over directly to Communist produc¬ 
tion and distribution”; 

• that “the Russian Revolution was made by the masses.” Odd, then, that 
the Bolsheviks only got a quarter of the vote at the height of their 
popularity in the elections that followed—a good deal fewer than the 
British Conservatives in their 1997 debacle—and a minority even in 

• that “one of the few achievements of the Russian Revolution which 
not even its enemies deny is that, unlike the other defeated multina¬ 
tional empires of the First World War, the Hapsburgs and the 
Ottomans, Russia was not broken into pieces.” Well, yes. 

Yet Hobsbawm, writing on our era, has been warmly welcomed in 
British liberal establishment circles. 

17 . 

The phrase “Cold War attitudes” is still applied by certain academics to 
those of us who played a part in, or took an anti-Soviet view of, the 
long confrontation. These attitudes supposedly lead to our inevitably 


distorting the facts of history and being inappropriately judgmental. 

They do not seem to grasp the idea that we might have become judg¬ 
mental, and anti-Communist, after, and because of, learning the facts. 

The author did indeed take part in the Cold War, first at the Foreign 
Office in what amounted to the periods equivalent of the Political 
Warfare Executive of 1939—45. Then he takes some pride in having 
briefed Senator Henry Jackson, who acknowledged this debt in several 
speeches (e.g., in the Senate, 27 September 1972 and II February 
1977). Then he advised Margaret Thatcher over the whole of her peri¬ 
od as leader of the opposition and Prime Minister, even drafting her 
first Iron Lady speech. 

Far lesser offenses than these are held by the new anti-anti- 
Communists as disqualifying their perpetrators from the right to study, 
analyze and comment on Communist phenomena. My own legitimate 
scope is even more constricted by the fact that I also took part in the 
Hot War against Nazi Germany, and am thus also disqualified from 
studying National Socialism. (And, similarly, all Jewish scholars are 
obviously too prejudiced to embark on any such project.) 

A last-ditch defense by the misinterpreters of the USSR is that while 
those who took a soft view of the regime were mistaken, those who 
took a hard view believed the regime could not be changed. This is 
untrue. I and as far as I know almost all those who took the “hard view” 
had continually expressed agreement with Orwell’s remark that it would 
“either democratise or perish.” 

In general, radical misapprehension was more common among aca¬ 
demics than among the Western public. Such academics were all too 
often not only inexperienced but also, as we have said, for the most 
part ignorant of the possibilities of history. They had no background 
of knowledge, let alone “feel” for the great slave empires of antiquity, 
the millenarian sects of the sixteenth century, the conquerors of 
medieval Asia. When Stalin procured the death of 6 or 7 million peas¬ 
ants in the terror-famine of 1933, he was doing no more than what 
Tamerlane had done—“laying waste” a rebellious territory with hunger 
rather than fire and sword. Any socioeconomist could tell us that this 
was rationally speaking impossible and therefore didn’t happen—just 
as Tamerlane could not have erected that “pyramid” of seventy thou¬ 
sand skulls at Ispahan, for it would obviously have been "economically 

The Great Error: Soviet Myths and Western Minds ♦ 149 

One reason, in this sphere as in all the others, is clear. Some academics 
had not the imagination necessary to comprehend the alien phenomenon 
of the Soviet state, an aberrant entity not to be understood by accepted 
methods. All this by no means destroyed serious understanding of the 
Soviet past and present, but it did serve to confuse the issues. 

This is demonstrated past argument by the record of the Wests’ sup¬ 
posedly thinking classes on the Stalin regime. At this point I cannot 
resist quoting the dictum of a well-known American critic, Fredric 
Jameson, which puts in more dramatic form a view still, or again, to be 
found elsewhere. He says that Stalinism was a “success,” having “ful¬ 
filled its historical mission to force the rapid industrialisation of an 
undeveloped country.” This is, of course, fallacious on several grounds. 
Russia had already been fourth or fifth among industrial economies 
before World War I; Stalin’s industrial advances could (as Russian schol¬ 
ars like Nikolai Shmelev and American scholars like Holland Hunter 
have long since demonstrated) have been achieved on the foundation of 
the 1929 economy, without collectivization, famine or terror; the 
advances were far and away smaller than claimed; the gigantism of 
enterprises was a grave distortion, as was pointed out to the Stalinists by 
(for example) Western automobile manufacturers; and Soviet-style 
industrialization was by world standards an anti-innovative dead end. In 
the circumstances, it is unclear how, or by whom, Professor Jameson felt 
empowered to speak for History. 

One might suggest that a course on the credulity of supposed intel¬ 
lectual elites should be one of those given, indeed made compulsory, at 
universities—even, come to that, at theological colleges. 

More generally, and not only in academe, this misunderstanding of a 
major force on the world scene could have proved disastrous in the peri¬ 
od between the end of World War II and the collapse of the Soviet 
Union. As it was, its influence made the pursuit of a rational foreign 
policy difficult. It hardly needs saying that we must do our best to 
avoid, or prevent, anything resembling a repetition—in fact that the les¬ 
son should be learned. 



Launching the Cold War 


W e do not propose to give a full history, or present a com¬ 
plete analysis, of rihe Cold War—that permanent crisis in 
international relations which held the world in its grip over 
the decades. We will, rather, examine certain basic elements, consider 
certain cruxes, and in particular present the Soviet ideological concepts 
that were its driving force, and the various methods of political or men¬ 
tal struggle that marked or defined it. 

2 . 

Even during World War II Stalins cooperation with the Western Allies 
was entirely a matter of realpolitik. And that cooperation was almost 
entirely one-way. The United States and the United Kingdom were at a 
disadvantage. Not indeed in practical terms. On the contrary, Stalin was 
desperately dependent on Western aid. The West, and especially the 
United States, provided huge supplies of essential equipment. It was of 
course in the interests of the Allies, and of the world in general, that the 
Soviet armies should defeat Hitler. But in return for the aid the West 
received little but further (and often impossible) demands, abuse and 
promises. What Stalin was able to get away with in connection with the 
Allies was quite remarkable. 

Americans and Britons who served with their countries’ military or 
political missions in the USSR tell the same story. At one point 
Churchill had to threaten to stop the convoys to Murmansk if Royal 
Navy representatives were not treated tolerably. One of dozens of 
examples of bad faith was Moscow’s refusal, while the war was still 
being waged on land and sea, to allow American naval experts to see the 

Launching the Cold War ♦ lji 

captured German experimental U-boat center at Gdynia and thus help 
in the protection of our convoys. 

On the Western side, over the years of the war, but dating back to the 
earlier self-deceptions of progressive opinion, we come across sheer 
ignorance, plus inept egoism. Harry Hopkins, to take one example, 
seems just to have accepted an absurdly fallacious stereotype of Soviet 
motivation, without making any attempt whatever to think, or to study 
the readily available evidence, or to seek the judgment of the knowl¬ 
edgeable. He conducted policy vis-a-vis Stalin with mere dogmatic con¬ 
fidence in his own (and his circle’s) unshakable sentiments. 

Some level of misreading of Soviet attitudes had indeed penetrated 
not only influential areas of the American establishment but also gov¬ 
ernment circles, including the State Department itself In his Memoirs, 
George Kennan says: 

The penetration of the American governmental services by members or 
agents (conscious or otherwise) of the American Communist Party in the 
late 1930s was not a figment of the imagination of the hysterical right¬ 
wingers ot a later decade. Stimulated and facilitated by the events of the 
Depression, particularly on the younger intelligentsia, it really existed, and 
it assumed proportions which, while never overwhelming, were also not 
trivial. . . . [b]y the end of the war, so far as I can judge from the evi¬ 
dence I have seen, the penetration was quite extensive. 

Kennan tells us that pro-Communist moods in the State Department 
had already resulted in the dissolution of the serious and professional 
Russian Department. Similar actions followed: some on a lesser scale, 
such as the Pentagons mislaying of a senior American POW report on 
the Katyn Massacre. 

Even during the war period Stalin committed acts almost ostenta¬ 
tiously offensive to civilized opinion. For example, the arrest and execu¬ 
tion of Henrik Ehrlich and Viktor Alter, the leading figures in the 
Jewish Social Democratic Bund, on charges publicly given by the Soviet 
embassy in Washington as having tried to stop resistance to the Nazis. 
In 1945 we see the disappearance of Raoul Wallenberg. 

It seems harder still to believe that any faith in Stalin might have 
survived one of his most open and treacherous acts early in 1945. The 
leaders of the underground Polish State and Army were induced, 
under Soviet safe conduct, to come out of the underground and nego- 


tiate with the Stalinist authorities. These were the men who had suc¬ 
ceeded in Poland, unlike in any other Nazi-occupied country, in keep¬ 
ing the national organizations in being. They were headed by official 
representatives of the legal Polish government, allies of the West since 
1939. When they emerged in March 1945, under the Soviet guaran¬ 
tee, to negotiate, they were arrested (and, after nine months in the 
hands of NKVD interrogators, “tried” and sentenced to long terms 
of imprisonment). 

This extravagant proof of duplicity and repression against legitimate 
representatives of an ally did lead to Western protests; but these were 
not followed up. Instead, the United Kingdom and the United States 
brought pressure on the legitimate Polish government in London to 
come to some accommodation with the Communist puppet Committee 
then installed in Warsaw. If this was done (they said) Stalin would allow 
a multiparty coalition to rule democratically, so long as Soviet interests 
were not harmed. What actually happened, of course, was that Premier 
Stanislaw Mikolajczyk and others went to Warsaw and joined the 
Communists as a minor partner in the coalition, which was then recog¬ 
nized in the West as the legitimate government of Poland. Within a 
couple of years Mikolajczyk and the other democrats were in exile or 
jail, and the Communists had total power. Thus, by means of a brief 
charade, Stalin had obtained both complete Soviet control and recogni¬ 
tion of it by the West, and all this before what we regard as the beginning 
of the Cold Wad 


The Soviet assumption that all other political life-forms and beliefs 
were inherently and immutably hostile was the simple and central cause 
of that Cold War. Not merely were “capitalism” and “imperialism” 
sworn enemies of Moscow; this also applied to all non-Communist 
Socialists and all non-Stalinist Communists. This ideological compul¬ 
sion saw the “world-historical process” as an unappeasable struggle 
between the Stalinist social order and the rest. 

From the Communist viewpoint, there was never any question of a 
permanent accommodation between the USSR and the “capitalist” 
world. The choice before Stalin and his regime in 1945 was thus not 
whether to seek permanent and stable cooperation with the non- 
Communist sphere. It was to decide whether in the new period there 

Launching the Cold War ♦ zjj 

should be a temporary relaxation, a reining back, of the ideology’s 
inherent expansionism. From 1923 to 1939 the USSR had not pressed 
forward, but played a defensive game. 

It has been argued that even in 1945 Stalin had not decided on his 
tactics for the postwar period, and that he for a time heeded the advice 
of such figures as Maxim Litvinov and Ivan Maisky, who, while suggest¬ 
ing hard bargaining with the West, nevertheless urged a strategy of 
accommodation for ten years or so (and as to taking “socialism” to 
Western Europe, another twenty). 

Stalin himself, in no way abandoning confrontation in the long term, 
seems to have seen that the Soviet Union was exhausted by the war and 
would need a period of recovery and reconstruction. In 1945 he told 
the Yugoslav Communists, “The war will soon be over. We shall recover 
in fifteen or twenty years, and then we’ll have another go at it.” Thus, 
even from the point of view of a Soviet Union committed in principle 
to a global struggle, there was a case for a pause, and Stalin, himself 
physically exhausted in the latter half of 1945, may have considered it. 

But the objective rationale did not match the subjective factor. It 
soon became clear that Stalin and his entourage regarded any relaxation 
as, apart from anything else, a seedbed for incorrect ideas and 
autonomous stirrings in the USSR itself: for something like political 
and ideological disintegration. 

That is to say that the Cold War, as it actually turned out, was not 
inevitable. But over a longer period some similar confrontation must 
have developed, unless and until the whole mind-set of the Communist 
Party and its leadership eroded. 


At a 1990 conference on the Cold War in Moscow in what was still the 
Soviet Foreign Ministry, I got the warmest applause from both Soviets 
and Westerners when I said that Stalin and the Stalinists had waged it 
“not only against the West and the peoples of Eastern Europe but also 
against the peoples of the Soviet Union.” 

In 1945—46 Stalin was faced in his own empire with two prob¬ 
lems—both, from his point of view, intractable except by political and 
mental repression. 

First, in the East European countries he had overrun, and whose 
acceptance of overriding Soviet interests he felt he needed on both ideo- 


logical and military grounds, it seemed impossible to secure reliable 
pro-Soviet regimes except by Communist-controlled dictatorships. This 
could not be effected except by the progressive repression of all demo¬ 
cratic and pro-Western parties and ideas in the countries concerned; 
and thus must inevitably lead to Western reaction, particularly as it was 
flatly contrary to a whole series of agreements. 

Second and even more crucial, in the USSR itself the war, and the 
alliance with Western powers, had caused a dangerous—to Stalinism— 
mood of hope for national and international normalization and relaxation. 

The USSR was now exhausted, and the United States was strong. 
Against this, Stalin, as in the past, felt able to squeeze proportionately 
far more military investment out of his battered economy than would 
have been possible in the West. And American strength, with the major 
exception of the nuclear weapon, was not deployable; while Western 
Europe remained weak and powerless—and in France and Italy large 
and powerful Communist Parties and Communist-dominated trade 
unions were deployed on the Soviet side. 

In November 1945 Maxim Litvinov, at that time Deputy Foreign 
Minister of the USSR (who, as his wife told me, had become not merely 
tactically but even ideologically disenchanted), was asked by the American 
envoy Averell Harriman what the West could do to satisfy Stalin. He 
answered: “Nothing.” In June 1946, still in that post, he warned a Western 
journalist that the “root cause” of the confrontation was “the ideological 
conception prevailing here that conflict between the Communist and capi¬ 
talist worlds is inevitable”—that is, no more than the doctrine long since 
announced by Lenin that “a series of frightful clashes” were bound to 
occur between the two systems, leading finally to the world victory of 
Communism. When the correspondent asked Litvinov, “Suppose the West 
would suddenly give in and grant all Moscow’s demands? . . . Would that 
lead to goodwill and the easing of the present tensions?” Litvinov 
answered, “It would lead to the West being faced, after a more or less short 
time, with the next series of demands.’’ 

The view, the ideological concept, that the world was an arena in which 
the socialist or proletarian forces were locked in a lethal struggle with the 
imperialist or bourgeois forces, a struggle in which no lasting accommo¬ 
dation was possible and which would eventually end in worldwide 
Communist victory, lasted until 1990, when, as we saw, Shevardnadze 
denounced both in doctrine and in practice the conception of an interna- 

Launching the Cold War ♦ /jj 

tional “class struggle,” to be concluded only with the victory of “world 

This was the essential dynamic of the Cold War, confirmed as to its 
later development by a number of Soviet high officials. For the crux of 
the international scene was (and is) the relationship between different 
political cultures with alien histories, attitudes and beliefs. As early as 
1946 T. S. Eliot wrote in an extraordinarily perceptive essay introducing 
The Dark Side of the Moon: 

We are, in fact, in a period of conflict between cultures—a conflict which 
finds the older cultures in a position of disadvantage: from lack of confi¬ 
dence in themselves, from divisions both internal and between each other, 
from the inheritance of old abuses from the past aggravated by abuses due 
to the hasty introduction of novelties. The liberal . . . assumes . . . that 
the cultural conflict is one which can, like political conflict, be adjusted by 
compromise, or, like the religious conflict, be resolved by tolerance. . . . 
The frantic attempt, either through assembling representatives of more 
and more nations in public, or through discussions between representatives 
of fewer and fewer nations in private, to find a political solution to what is 
not merely a political problem, can . . . only lead to temporary and illuso¬ 
ry benefits, unless the deeper problem is faced and pondered. 


In Stalins time, but also in the pre-Stalin and post-Stalin Soviet Union, 
the dominant attitude to the outside world can best be described as a 
siege mentality. The obverse of this is, indeed, a sortie mentality. It has 
sometimes been suggested that the Cold War was a conflict between two 
“ideologies,” equally (or so it appears) closed. But the Western approach 
was not an “ideological” one at all. It is important that this confusion 
of the issue be ended—if only because it features in low-level comment 
even now. The Western culture had, in a general way, a view of politics 
which included political liberty and the rule of law. It did not have a 
universal and exclusively defined mind-set. 

Western resistance to Communism included proponents of an even¬ 
tual Socialist society—for example, Ernst Reuter, who was the brave 
mayor of Berlin during the blockade in 1949, and the Social 
Democratic leader Vaino Tanner, militant in the Finnish resistance to 
Stalinist aggression. 


It was in the London left-wing weekly Tribune (and at the same time 
in the New York Times of 10 March 1946) that Arthur Koestler published 
a remarkable article. He said, in part: 

No political treaties and trade agreements can guarantee peace as long as 
this world remains psychologically divided into two worlds, with persecu¬ 
tion-mania on one side, growing alarm on the other. . . . Psychological 
armaments should be made an object of international negotiations and of 
political bargaining just as armaments in the air and on the sea. . . . The 
measure of “psychological armament” is the extent to which a govern¬ 
ment obstructs the free exchange of information and ideas with the out¬ 
side world. A country which builds a Maginot line of censorship from 
behind which it fires its propaganda salvoes is committing psychological 
aggression. ... 

Psychological disarmament should be made a bargaining object in all 
future negotiations, and given high priority on the political agenda. It 
should be made the pre-condition of concessions in the geographical, 
economic and scientific field. To get it accepted, the use of all levers of 
pressure, political and economical, would for once be morally justified. 

6 . 

If Stalin had imposed his regimes in Eastern Europe rather more slowly 
and carefully, American demobilization and withdrawal from Europe 
might have taken place as at first planned, after which he could have 
moved gradually to the offensive. 

This fails to take into account the pressures which, as we noted, had 
built up in the Soviet Union itself. One finds a consensus among those 
who speak of the country at the end of the war. It was strongly felt that 
the efforts and sacrifices must result in better things. Boris Pasternak 
tells us how a “presage of freedom was in the air.” Andrei Sakharov 
recalls that “we all believed—or at least hoped—that the post-war 
world would be decent and humane.” Vasily Grossman shows us a war 
hero fighting not only against the Nazis but also against the Soviet labor 
camps where his relatives had perished. Konstantin Simonov, a more 
orthodox writer, describes how the individual qualities developed in a 
soldier, “his mother wit, his intelligence, his courage,” presented a dan¬ 
ger to the Soviet regime. 

Moreover, “Ivan had seen Europe,” finding even Poland and the 
Balkans far more prosperous than the USSR, while the wartime alliance 

Launching the Cold War 

♦ ZJ7 

had to some extent encouraged thinking about Western ideas among the 
intellectuals. All in all, a dangerous mix from the Leninist-Stalinist 
point of view, and one which, if it had not been ruthlessly countered, 
might indeed have led to a disintegration of the system and saved the 
world from fifty years of danger and suffering. The following years saw 
a bitter struggle waged against the West and against Westernizing, or 
democratizing, tendencies in the Soviet empire. 

There is no need to retrace the whole process by which the Soviets 
interpreted the Yalta and Potsdam agreements guaranteeing free elec¬ 
tions in Eastern Europe into ruthless Stalinist takeovers. The peace 
treaties with Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria guaranteed free democrat¬ 
ic rights to all antifascist parties. Any disputes were to be settled by the 
ambassadors in these countries of the three powers (the USSR, the 
United States and the United Kingdom). When the democratic parties 
were in fact persecuted and destroyed, the American and British ambas¬ 
sadors demanded the consultation provided for by the treaties. They 
were told that no “dispute” existed, so no meeting need take place. 

It was not until 1946 that hopes of a Soviet return to “normality” were 
seen by the practical leadership of the West to be misconceived. Over 1945 
and 1946, and even more in 1947 and 1948, Soviet actions first shook, 
then destroyed, such illusions. The democratic parties of the United States, 
Britain, France, Italy and Germany and the other West European states saw 
the realities and, however reluctantly, took up the challenge. They were 
faced, over the whole period, not only by the armed ideology of the Soviet 
Union but also in their own countries by ignorance and confusion over the 
mere facts—sometimes from converts to the hostile cause, sometimes from 
well-meaning innocents unaware of the real issues. 

Attempts were later made by some Westerners to deflect the blame, 
or much of it, onto the West. For example, Isaac Deutscher, the influen¬ 
tial anti-Western historian, stated that “it was only after the 
Communists had been ejected from the French and Italian governments 
that Stalin began to eject the anti-Communists from the Eastern 
European governments.” In fact, it was in January 1945 that Vyshinsky s 
ultimatum secured the expulsion of Julius Maniu and the democratic 
parties from the Romanian government. Nikola Petkov and the 
Bulgarian equivalents were out by that summer. In East Germany the 
Social Democrats were destroyed in April 1946. Mikolajczyk and his 
Peasant Party had been excluded from the Polish government by 


February 1947; and in the same month the Smallholder leadership in 
Hungary had been accused of conspiracy, and their Secretary-General 
was under arrest. It was in May 1947 that the Communist ministers left 
the governments of Italy and France. 

Nevertheless, this canard was repeated bv Eric Hobsbawm, as late as 
the 1990s, in his The Age of Extremes —arguing that in 1947—48 the 
Communists were eliminated from Western governments and that in 
Eastern Europe the Soviets “followed suit” by eliminating non- 
Communists from their governments. It is too much to ask of such 
analysis, erroneous as to fact, that it go on to concern itself with the 
even more striking point that in the West the Communists were not 
“eliminated” from legal opposition, while in Eastern Europe the non- 
Communist opposition was crushed and its democratic leaders executed 
or jailed. (At a Moscow semina'r in late Soviet times, I found that their 
establishment historians were saying that both the USSR and the West 
were to blame for the Cold War in Eastern Europe, with the Soviets 
backing the “extreme left” and us backing the “extreme right.” In fact, 
all of the parties supported by the West were well left of center, with 
the possible exception of the Romanian Liberals, who might be called 
moderate rightist. The younger scholars at this seminar without excep¬ 
tion put the entire blame on the USSR.) 

The Stalinist momentum, following these earlier successes, led to the 
coup in Prague, the Berlin blockade, and the full Communist confronta¬ 
tion with the governments of the West. 


A recent Moscow article suggests that if Stalin had not believed (quite 
rightly) that the Soviet Union would soon make its own nuclear 
weaponry, he might have adopted a less aggressive strategy, even perhaps 
accepting the Marshall Plan. Whatever may be thought of that, it is cer¬ 
tainly true that the emergence of the American nuclear weapon in 1945 
profoundly affected the thinking of everyone concerned with interna¬ 
tional affairs. 

American possession, and for a time monopoly, of the bomb indeed 
marked a crucial change in Stalinism’s operational context. From 1945 
there could no longer be much hope in Moscow that the United States 
would be unable to project its military power. Over the decades the 
bomb led to restraint: neither the West nor the Communists could really 

Launching the Cold War ♦ 139 

face a nuclear war; and though things were sometimes unpleasantly dan¬ 
gerous, we can agree with Thomas Powers wTen he says that in a sense 
the winner of the Cold War was the atom bomb. 

The American bomb meant that the West had at its disposal, for the 
time being, a weapon giving it an advantage more than compensatory 
for any inferiority in other military and political fields. The United 
States, also relevantly, had a bomber force the Soviet Union could not 
match. This was largely true, and of high deterrent value, even after the 
first Soviet bomb was tested in 1949. 

As is now generally admitted, a Soviet bomb would not have been 
achieved for several years more but for the success of Soviet espionage in 
obtaining secret information from Western scientists associated with the 
Manhattan Project. That is to say, political ideas in the minds of certain 
capable physicists and others took the lorm of believing that to provide 
Stalin with the bomb was a contribution to world progress. They were 
wrong. And their decisions show, once again, that minds of high quality in 
other respects are not immune to political or ideological delirium. (As we 
have noted, the German Nobel Prize physicists Johannes Stark and Philipp 
Lenard were extreme Nazis.) In the Soviet case, those involved thought 
they knew better than mere politicians like Churchill. They didn't. 

Knowledge of the horrifying power of the new bomb had a pro¬ 
found psychological impact on the Western public. Those who became 
involved in the various “Peace Campaigns" usually thought that conces¬ 
sions by the West, rather than deterrence, would or might save the 
world. That the Soviets had no real concern for internationalizing in the 
nuclear sphere was made clear when the UN Scientific and Technical 
Committee, which included Russian and Polish scientists and the 
Communist Professor Frederic Joliot-Curie, reported unanimously that 
inspection and control over the whole process of production was desir¬ 
able and technically possible. Vyshinsky, as the Soviet representative, 
rejected this view as “an assault on State sovereignty" (on 9 November 
1948). In the UN Political Committee, he put it bluntly: “We are not 
obliged to subordinate ourselves or to render an account in this matter 
to any international organs." 

The Soviet leadership both under Stalin and later wished to avoid 
nuclear war. But it never abandoned, until 1991, the basic policy of irrec¬ 
oncilability with all other political systems and ideas, nor the ultimate aim 
of Communist victory on a world scale. Nor did its military doctrine ever 


abandon the nuclear option, especially on the tactical battlefield. 

Fortunately, Moscow retained enough prudence, or sanity, to under¬ 
stand first the power of the Western deterrent and, second, its own fail¬ 
ure to disintegrate the Western will by psychological or political warfare. 

It seems even more fortunate, given the Maoist attitude to nuclear war, 
that Communist China played no decisive role. The Soviet leader 
Mikhail Suslov reported to the Central Committee in 1962 that “when 
a Czechoslovak journalist, in a conversation with Tao Chu, a member of 
the Central Committee of the CCP, pointed out that in Czechoslovakia, 
where 14,000,000 people live, the whole nation might perish in the 
event of thermo-nuclear war, he was given the reply, ‘In the event of a 
destructive war the small countries of the Socialist camp will have to 
subordinate their interests to the general interests of the entire camp as a 
whole.' Another responsible official of the Chinese Peoples Republic, in 
a conversation with Soviet representatives, asserted that Comrade 
Togliatti, Secretary-General of the Italian Communist Party, was wrong 
when he expressed concern for the fate of his people and said that in the 
event of thermo-nuclear war all Italy would be destroyed. ‘But other peo¬ 
ples will remain,' said this official, ‘and imperialism will be annihilated."' 

This comes, indeed, from a partisan source—from the Soviets. But it 
is in accord with Nehru’s conversation with MaoTse-tung when the lat¬ 
ter said that in a world war, even if half the population were destroyed, 
socialism would be victorious and soon make up the deficit. This takes 
the totalitarian view to its logical extreme, and not many Communist 
leaders would have subscribed to it, openly at least. Still, it well illus¬ 
trates the possible dangers of their attitude that all other political life- 
forms are to be regarded as hostile—as fundamentally, irretrievably 
hostile, and destined in one way or another for destruction as soon as 
this might be feasible. 


Stalin knew that the United States was, as he put it, the most powerful 
state in the world. This was especially true from a Marxist point of 
view, that is, economically. And taking the West as a whole, vis-a-vis the 
“Socialist camp," it was even more apparent. How could the 
Communists hope to prevail against these “objective factors"? Lacking 
the economic and technological power to outmatch the West, the 
Soviets could only hope to achieve their ends by massive deception of 
the Western publics and governments. 

So when the leaders of the West learned their lesson, they had to 

Launching the Cold War ♦ / 6 7 

cope not only with their opponents a Voutrance in Moscow, but also with 
the sections of their own publics who, to greater or lesser extents, 
accepted Moscow’s disinformation. 

Politically, the West went through a very vulnerable period. Even so, 
American—and potentially West European—power was such that it 
could not be faced directly. This was especially so after the formation of 
the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the blocking of 
Communist power in France and Italy. So, as was to be the case 
throughout the Cold War, this Western defensive strength was attacked 
as being inherently aggressive. The central theme of the Soviet operation 
against the Western public mind was “peace.” Every mobilization of 
Western power, every Western failure to accept Soviet proposals in 
negotiation, every speech, book, broadcast or article by a Westerner con¬ 
veying the facts about Stalinism, were branded as offenses against peace. 
Vast “Peace Campaigns” were launched in the West, with agitation, 
mass meetings, polemics in the press and on the radio. All this at the 
cost of millions of dollars. 

The West’s response was on a much more limited scale, and, at that, 
most of it was from individual sources. George Orwell’s and Arthur 
Koestler’s dramatizations of the madness of Stalinism were probably 
more effective than a vast pro-Soviet demonstration in Trafalgar Square. 
But this was because the nature of Soviet reality was itself showing 
through the fog of official misrepresentation. Its own actions increas¬ 
ingly shook would-be sympathizers. A number of reputable firsthand 
accounts of life and politics in Stalin’s empire were appearing, and 
sound analyses of its nature were being written. 

Western governmental counteraction in itself was, by Moscow’s stan¬ 
dards, small-scale and low-funded. Its one highly effective counterstroke 
was to subsidize radio’s Russian and East European services—in partic¬ 
ular the politically informed broadcasts of Radio Liberty and Radio 
Free Europe. The Soviet response was a huge and incomparably more 
expensive jamming operation, which was only partially successful. Of 
course, anyone caught listening to it was subject to immediate arrest. 
Apart from that, Soviet citizens had nothing to go by except the vast 
and penetrating voice of Soviet propaganda, which portrayed the West 
as fascist cannibals (a quite normal image) and induced a measure of 
mass psychosis in much of the population. The way in which ignorance 
prevailed as late as 1987 was strikingly illustrated by the Moscow corre¬ 
spondent Xan Smiley (Daily Telegraph, 14 December 1987), who said 


that “I often mention that compulsory national service in Britain and 
America was abandoned about a generation ago—and they always look 
at me in disbelief Everything here is mentally geared up for war. 
Readiness for war against capitalism is part of education. We in the 
West, it is assumed, are psychologically even readier.” 

Western government leaders engaged in the struggle for the support 
of their own citizens mainly with general pronouncements, though there 
were very occasional direct polemics at the international level, as when 
the UK delegation to the United Nations officially presented it with the 
secret Soviet Forced Labour Codex. 

Two initiatives in the intellectual arena were, however, of great value. 
Under a presidential instruction, American secret funds were provided 
to the Congress for Cultural Freedom, almost all of whose members 
were from the moderate but anti-Communist left. They produced an 
array of literary-political journals in the West— Encounter ; Preuves, 
Quadrant and so on—which successfully ended the fairly easy ride pro- 
Soviet intellectual circles had enjoyed in the 1940s. When, many years 
later, it was revealed that Encounter was financed by ‘‘CIA money," there 
was a minor row about various editors not having been told what was, 
after all, a secret. It was never alleged that the CIA, or the American 
government, had intervened in any way in the editing, and many con¬ 
tributors, including a Marxist professor and a leading counterculture 
spokesman, sprang to Encounters defense, with the Labour, later Social 
Democratic, leader Roy Jenkins commenting aptly that if the CIA had 
supported the periodical, this was to its credit. 

The other effective governmental action of which I am aware was the 
founding by Labour Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin of the Foreign 
Office s Information Research Department, in which I myself served for 
a number of years until 1956. Repeating, on a far smaller scale, the 
Political Warfare Executive of the Hitler war period, its role was to dis¬ 
cover, analyze and make available to journalists and others the real 
facts—and real views—of the Soviet milieu. The full history of these 
attempts to present, and success in purveying, the Western investment in 
the political struggle is yet to be written. Apart from these instances, it 
will reveal an extraordinary combination of shortsightedness and 

At any rate, to counter the huge Soviet investment in ideological and 
political warfare, there was always reluctance in Western political circles 

Launching the Cold War ♦ / 6 j 

to funding countermoves—even though these were based largely on 
making the realities of the Communist order and Communist actions 
clear to the citizens of both “camps/’ Nor was this shortsightedness 
merely a result of a pro-Communist, or detente-deluded, left, 


The Soviet ideological offensive was, of course, differently conceived. It 
was naturally concerned to represent Soviet actions and ideas in the best 
possible light. As to actions, this took the form of denial in some cases 
and verbalism in others—the phrase “Peoples Democracy” was a spe¬ 
cial part of the panoply. 

This had effects with some minds: on the forced labor issue, to 
which we have referred, a French intellectual, Jean Lafitte, when a wit¬ 
ness at the Rousset libel trial in 1950, was asked, “If labor camps like 
those which have been described to us do exist at Kolyma, would you 
agree to condemn them?” He answered, “If I am asked, If your mother 
is a murderer, would you condemn her?’ I would reply: ‘Sir, my mother is 
my mother and will not be a murdered”’ 

An extreme case, no doubt, but there were plenty of extreme cases, 
and many more who were prepared to regard such matters as either 
unproven (despite hundreds of witnesses to the facts) or as immaterial. 
Immaterial, that is, in the context of taking a comfortable view of the 
USSR. But, of course, to have such misconceptions of a world power 
was to build one’s world view on sand. 

In addition to the eclipse of critical standards of judgment which 
marked those whose allegiance was to the Soviet Union and the 
Communist Party, we find an accompanying penumbra of less commit¬ 
ted misunderstanding which obscured the realities over a far wider sec¬ 
tion of Western society. Or, to use a different metaphor, to those 
symbolic birds the hawk and the dove should be added not only the 
cuckoo but also the ostrich. 

The fear of war, and now, more lethally than ever, of nuclear war, led 
many to believe, or fear, that their own governments could avoid it by 
pursuing policies acceptable to the Soviet government—even, in many 
cases, to the belief that surrender might be a better option than deter¬ 
rence. But of course even a world effectively conquered by the USSR 
would have been beset by an endless cycle of schisms and rebellions, 
fought with the utmost ruthlessness and with every available modern 


weapon. As early as 1944 Milovan Djilas, who was then a leading 
Yugoslav Communist, was told by a Soviet general that “when 
Communism has triumphed throughout the entire world, then warfare 
will take on an ultimate bitterness/’ We know that Stalin and the 
Communist chieftains of Eastern Europe planned an assault on 
Communist Yugoslavia itself, which was abandoned in part because of 
their then overriding fear of the West. In Hungary in 1956, the first 
open clash came between two Communist-headed governments (togeth¬ 
er with a barelv averted war between the USSR and Poland" . In 1968 
the Communist USSR invaded Communist Czechoslovakia; and in the 
following year full-scale battles between the Communist USSR and 
Communist China were in progress on the Ussuri River, with all-out 
nuclear war a near thing. In 1978 the war between Communist Vietnam 
and Communist Cambodia occurred; and later the fighting between 
Vietnam and China. As the Soviet general told Djilas, eventually the 
proliferating sects and factions of Communism “will undertake the 
reckless destruction of the human race in the name of the human race’s 
greater 'happiness.”’You might be Red and dead. 

Public debate on the ethics of defense produced a variety of argu¬ 
ments and raised a variety of problems. On the issue of deterrence, it 
may seem that the prospect of nuclear warfare was so humanly intolera¬ 
ble that whatever deterred it was morally justifiable. But the counterar¬ 
gument also derived from the intolerableness of nuclear war—that if 
deterrence failed, the moral burden of using the nuclear weapon could 
or should not be faced. 

These dilemmas are familiar enough. Various moral pronouncements 
attempted to reconcile them, at least in part. But when the hierarchies of 
the Roman Catholic Church in America and France issued contradict¬ 
ing statements, less professional moralists may have felt that these were 
all too often attempts to square the circle and provide a balm* to the 
consciences concerned. At any rate, it seems obvious that if we accepted 
deterrence in any sense at all, the deterrent must be adequate, and 
unquestionably adequate, to deter. To seek to solve the moral problem 
by paring down the deterrent to a point at which its deterrence value no 
longer carried full conviction would have been to have the worst of both 
worlds. Yet this is where we seemed to be pointed by those who wanted 
to be able to say abashedly, like the girl with the baby, that we had a 
deterrent, but only a little one. 

Launching the Cold War ♦ l6j 

Needless to say, other views also had their contradictions—in partic¬ 
ular unilateral nuclear disarmament, which carries the corollary that it 
would encourage conventional war, which would swiftly become nuclear. 

10 . 

So far, we have examined the main and major causes of the extremely 
dangerous period that followed the end of World War II. 

All this is sometimes disputed on the grounds that Western policy 
over the years can be faulted for mistakes; and not only mistakes but 
destructive and self-defeating reactions. 

It was urged against Western policies that some of those states we 
had as allies in the Cold War were otherwise deplorable—authoritarian 
or dictatorships. Yes, and in the war against Nazism it was similarly 
argued that Britain at first was allied only with an undemocratic Poland 
and a corrupt France; that the Gaullist Free French who then supported 
us ruled only colonial territories; that later our most effective ally was 
the Greek military dictatorship of General Ioannis Metaxas, who in 
1941 won the first Allied victory over Fascism. Then we had the feudal 
Ethiopian regime, which we restored to power. Later still, Britain and 
America took as their principal allies Stalin and Chiang Kai-shek, nei¬ 
ther of them stainless democrats. And similarly with the alliances of the 
Cold War. In fact, it is impossible to take seriously a notion of world 
politics that suggests a stainless record, unviable outside the sphere of 
those the Scots call the Unco' Guid. 

Indeed, it could be argued that some more moralistically pretentious 
democratic governments, such as that of Sweden at its worst, were on 
balance an asset to the Stalinists rather than to our side. 

Another phrase much sneered at by hesperophobes was “the Free 
World.” They were able to point out all sorts of imperfections within 
the Western sphere. But in comparison with Stalinism, this was rather 
like saying the expression “pure water” is absurd—all sorts of salts 
being in solution even in the best. So (it might be said) there was no 
essential difference between it and brine. 

Of course, none of this is to suggest that the West acted throughout 
in an impeccable manner, beyond all moral criticism. No political 
process—not even Gandhi s—could ever merit such an accolade. 



Missiles and Mind-sets: 
The Cold War Continues 


T he period between Stalins death in 1953 and the emergence of 
the Brezhnev regime in 1964 saw continued progress in Soviet 
armaments: the detonation of the first deliverable hydrogen 
bomb in 1953, the launching of the first satellite in 1957—the latter 
marking the achievement of an intercontinental ballistic missile. 

The satellite launch, followed by other Soviet space achievements, 
had a major propaganda effect. There was a strong impression that the 
Soviet Union deployed a superior science and technology. And this was, 
of course mistakenly, thought to have produced a ‘'missile gap” in 
which the United States was outgunned—though in fact the Soviet 
Union had not really caught up in terms of effective deployment. 

The Cuban missile crisis in 1962 was, in this context, an attempt to 
outflank America s general superiority. The Soviet retreat was accompa¬ 
nied by much, though unpublicized, comment in Moscow military and 
political circles to the effect that the USSR would never again be caught 
in a position of weakness. The period that ensued and that only ended 
in the Soviet collapse at the end of the 1980s saw the continuity of the 
totalitarian mind-set. In one sense, the Soviet leaders, especially after 
Khrushchevs fall, were not red-hot ideologists. On the other hand, their 
minds were such that they had no other way of conceiving, or even jus¬ 
tifying, their role. Even if doubts had entered one or another mind—as, 
however minimally and vaguely, they seem to have entered 
Khrushchevs—they could barely find expression. His successors were 

Missiles and Mind-sets: The Cold War Continues ♦ 16 7 

men who—unlike Khrushchev and his generation—had had no experi¬ 
ence whatever of pre-Soviet times. They were all mere products of the 
apparatus. They had no other way of “thinking.” Their view of the 
world remained that of sectarian hostility to all other sources of politi¬ 
cal ideas and political power, and an almost ineradicable conviction that 
struggle on a world scale was their historical mission. 

Tactics, and the assessment of opportunity, varied with Marxist 
assessments of the balance of forces. So in the mid-1960s, the time 
when Stalin had, in fact, foreseen that the USSR would be in a position 
to “have another go,” we entered the second main phase of the Cold 
War—on which we shall go into more detail. For it is at about this time 
that a decision seems to have been made in the Kremlin to take on the 
West in armaments and on a world scale. 

The expression “offensive against the positions of imperialism” 
began to appear regularly in the Soviet press in 1965. The first use of 
the phrase seems to have been by Brezhnev in an address to the congress 
of the Romanian Communist Party on 20 July 1965, when he noted 
that “some years ago” the Communist Parties had already concluded 
that the relation of forces had shifted in their favor, and that in the 
meantime this had reached such a stage that “the progressive forces are 
now on the offensive.” The call for this “offensive” was formalized in 
the manifesto of the Communist Parties in November ( Pravda } 28 
November 1965). 

As to the scope of Soviet ambitions, in June 1968 Foreign Minister 
Andrei Gromyko flatly asserted in his speech to the Supreme Soviet: 

The Soviet Union is a great power situated on two continents, Europe 
and Asia, but the range of our country’s international interests is not 
determined by its geographical position alone. . . . [T]he Soviet people 
do not plead with anybody to be allowed to have their say in the solution 
of any question involving the maintenance of international peace, con¬ 
cerning the freedom and independence of the people and our country’s 
extensive interests. . . . During any acute situation, however far away it 
appears from our country, the Soviet Unions reaction is to be expected in 
all capitals of the world. 

Though, of course, equivalent Western reaction to events in Poland was 


One would have thought Gromykos claim to a place in the sun was 
unequivocal. Yet some Westerners extracted a fairly harmless intent from 
it. They argued that all Gromyko urged, and so all the Soviet Union 
wanted, was the status of a global power coequal with the United States. 
On this argument, the Soviet Union for decades put in an enormous 
effort and overstrained its economy for the right to have its opinion 
‘‘listened to” in discussions of world problems! And if we interpreted it 
as meaning that the Kremlin simply wanted a half share with the West 
in every sphere, it remained nonsense. Were we really to envisage a 
peaceable world in which every country was ruled by a stable coalition 
of Communists and democrats? Or alternate countries that were 
Communist and non-Communist, with no attempt to spread the power 
of the former into the latter? 

The idea that Soviet expansionism was in later years simply a “great 
power” matter hardly holds up. We need not, indeed we cannot, sort out 
the components of the expansionist motivations. We certainly cannot 
exclude an “imperialist” element in the mix, but there are a number of 
arguments against overstressing it. First, the expansion, except in 
Afghanistan, was not in the Russian interest area. And in fact, the army 
leadership, naturally the keepers of strategic tradition, still thought in 
terms of Europe and Asia and resisted the new trend. The various Soviet 
adventures overseas were, of course, tied up with the enormous naval 
expansion of the Khrushchev and post-Khrushchev era, both effect and 
cause of this new transoceanic colonialism—though, as ever, rational 
thinking on naval deployment seems to have been lacking. A prominent 
official of the period once asked me exasperatedly how they could have 
built a big fleet in a sea it could not get out of. (It is true there are sup¬ 
posed to have been plans for a seizure of the Straits, by Spetsnaz troops, 
but even if that were plausible, the ships would have been sitting targets.) 
The navy was extremely expensive, and contributed greatly to the eco¬ 
nomic burden of military production. And that level of production was 
itself an argument against any but a commitment to arms at all costs. 

And meanwhile, all theoretical pronouncements, both public and 
secret, gave the essentials of Soviet foreign policy, as enumerated by 
Gromvko in his book The Foreign Policy of the Soviet Union (Moscow, 1975\ 

The Communist Party subordinates all its theoretical and practical activi¬ 
ty in the sphere of foreign relations to the task of strengthening the posi- 

Missiles and Mind-sets: The Cold War Continues ♦ l6g 

tions of socialism, and the interests of further developing and deepening 
the world revolutionary process. 

2 . 

But the USSR, and the whole Soviet bloc, were still economically far 
weaker than the USA and the West. In that context, further steps were 
taken to persuade the West not to match the Soviet armament drive. 
This was the Soviet concept of “detente.” 

Brezhnev stated the political results he sought from “detente” clearly 
enough: “In conditions of international tension, in bourgeois countries, 
the reactionary elements become active, the military raise their heads, 
anti-democratic tendencies and anti-Communism are strengthened. And 
conversely, the past few years have shown quite clearly that, in condi¬ 
tions of slackened international tension, the pointer of the political 
barometer moves left” (speech to the Conference of European 
Communist Parties at Karlovy Vary, 24 April 1967). 

Translated out of Sovietese, this signified that from the Soviet view¬ 
point, detente was intended to weaken Western vigilance, making it easier 
for appeasers and pro-Soviet elements to come to power. 

The ideological struggle, Soviet leaders often insisted, should be con¬ 
tinued, and even intensified, during a period of detente. As Brezhnev 
put it, ‘‘Our Party has always warned that in the ideological field there 
can be no peaceful coexistence, just as there can be no class peace 
between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie.” On 27 June 1972, at a 
dinner for Fidel Castro, he added: 

While pressing for the assertion of the principle of peaceful coexistence, 
we realize that successes in this important matter in no way signify the 
possibility of weakening our ideological struggle. On the contrary, we 
should be prepared for an intensification of this struggle and for its 
becoming an increasingly acute form of struggle between the two social 

Soviet insistence on the continuation of the ideological struggle was 
often misunderstood. As Walter Laqueur remarked, in the West “Soviet 
insistence on the continuation of the ideological struggle is all too often 
not taken seriously”—because the concept of such struggle is alien to 
Western thought. People were, Laqueur argued, inclined to think that 
Soviet pronouncements were merely a matter of lip service to doctrine. 


In fact, however, “ideological struggle is not something which concerns 
the philosophers. It is a synonym for political struggle, and political 
struggle, needless to say, means power, not only the power of ideas, but 
also some far more tangible things.” Laqueur added that the notion 
sometimes held by Western statesmen, that Soviet policy was difficult to 
understand (and he quotes Chancellor Willy Brandt directly to that 
effect) was only the case “if one refuses to take seriously what Soviet 
leaders are saying” and if one refused to compare their sayings with 
their actions. 

Thus, this “ideological struggle” was not a matter of winning well- 
conducted philosophical debates at international congresses—though 
even as to theoretical argument, Lenin cogently said that his controver¬ 
sial methods were “calculated to evoke in the reader hatred, aversion and 
contempt . . . calculated not to convince, but to break up the ranks of 
the opponent, not to correct the mistake of the opponent, but to 
destroy him.” 

Through the entire “detente” period, the Soviet “ideological” offen¬ 
sive went ahead. At home in the USSR, there was a continuous flow of 
propaganda the viciousness of whose tone is still perhaps not suffi¬ 
ciently appreciated abroad) against the internal evils and the interna¬ 
tional aggressiveness and militarism of the West, blanketing the country 
with harsh abuse and plain lies. Abroad, every possible medium was 
employed to blacken the Western governments and their friends, to 
assist their enemies, and to undermine their military defenses and their 
political will. 

During the last years of the regime, Soviet officials, including spokes¬ 
men for the Central Committees Foreign Department, wrote that the 
Brezhnevite “detente” was a deception; that the Soviet stance remained 
expansionist; but that the Western governments’ reaction prevented any 
substantial gains—i.e., that in spite of all their efforts, our policies 
remained effective. 

3 . 

A common misconception in the West was (and is still) that there was an 
“arms race” between the United States and the USSR for which 
Washington was at least as much to blame as Moscow. As to arms races in 
general, as the British historian Michael Howard has pointed out, there 
have been arms races that did not lead to war, and wars that were not pre- 

Missiles and Mind-sets: The Cold War Continues ♦ ijl 

ceded by arms races. Andrei Sakharov, from his unchallenged moral posi¬ 
tion, even suggested that an arms race might have a sobering effect by 
proving how fruitless, as well as how dangerous, the results must be. 

It may be appropriate to give the view of another Soviet physicist (and 
Nobel Prize winner) who had himself barely avoided execution. Lev 
Landaus conversations, as reported to or bugged by the KGB, are on 
record. On I December 1956 he said: “If our system cannot fall apart in 
a peaceful way, then a third world war, with all the horrors it would create, 
is not avoidable. Therefore the question about the peaceful liquidation of 
our system is, in essence, a question of the fate of humanity/’ On 4 
December 1956 Landau said: "I am of the following belief: if our system 
is liquidated without war—no matter whether it be by revolution or evo¬ 
lution—then a war will not occur. Without fascism there will be no war.’’ 

Generally speaking, the Soviet arms effort over the period from the 
mid-sixties to the mid-eighties proceeded at the maximum feasible rate, 
almost regardless of the occasional bursts of American rearmament. 
(There were, of course, particular investments in response to particular 
Western armaments.) And arms control treaties were as far as possible 
negotiated with a view to their compatibility with Soviet military plan¬ 
ning. (Or were, on occasion, broken, as with the Krasnoyarsk radar.) 

And once again we come across the widespread notion among a stra¬ 
tum in the West that the establishment of facts and the expression of 
opinions unwelcome to the Soviet regime was itself an act of “Cold War.” 
I remember that a short biography of Lenin I did for Frank Kermode’s 
Modern Masters series—a fairly mild one, too, by modern standards— 
was denounced as a “Cold War” production by the London Times. 

This notion of Moscow taking offense and therefore hardening their 
policy was common in the West. There was no real warrant for it. Of 
course, so long as they believed that going through the motions of 
being offended would influence Western policy makers, they went 
through the motions. But, as Gromyko said, the Politburo based their 
policies not on whether or not they were offended, but solely on what 
would give them a real advantage. 

But even if this is not accepted, such acts as George Bush’s refusal to 
receive Andrei Sakharov’s widow Elena Bonner (unlike Mrs. Thatcher or 
M. Mitterand), as with President Ford’s refusal to receive Alexander 
Solzhenitsyn, were clearly based on the notion that advantages could be 
obtained by not offending Moscow. 


Moscow did not reciprocate. At that very time, the Kremlin gave a 
lunch for Georges Marchais, the head of the French Communist Party— 
that is, we could not receive the wife of a man persecuted merely for the 
expression of his opinions, while they could receive the organizer of a 
political machine devoted to the overthrow of the Western order! 

We need not trace the details of the Soviet campaign in the West. A 
few examples will suffice. Thus the Soviet investment in the anti—neu¬ 
tron bomb campaign in Western Europe alone is estimated at around a 
hundred million dollars. And this was a single operation. As to the 
detail, there are numbers of cases of hitherto unsuspected journalists, 
peace activists and others proving to be Soviet agents, sometimes caught 
with large sums from Moscow having been traced to them. A typical 
case was that of the French journalist Pierre-Charles Pathe, sentenced in 
1980 as a KGB agent (whose Soviet controllers worked at UNESCO) 
with the role of spreading disinformation on behalf of Moscow. 
Literally hundreds of articles based on information falsified in the KGB 
“service A” were put out by him, full in particular of allegations against 
the CIA. The KGBs aims are obvious enough. What is extraordinary is 
the wide success of these operations. 

The record of a great part of the West German media was a dreadful 
example. Strong words, no doubt, but surely not too strong when one 
considers that their representatives, as we have noted, saw East Germany 
as not only politically but even economically successful—and this in 
spite of GDR-sponsored trips through the actuality, in their own near 
neighborhood and with no language barrier. 


One result of the Western mood was that in negotiating for a nuclear 
agreement, the mere aim of getting an agreement, and thus presenting 
the Western publics with a success, sometimes led Western governments 
to accept unsatisfactory commitments. 

The negotiations for various treaties were of course conducted from 
the American side with the Soviet government, and from the Soviet side 
with the American government and the American and Western publics. 
The history of these negotiations and treaties is complex. Here we are 
only concerned with the views taken, the mental atmosphere. The sus¬ 
ceptibility of the West to deception was seen at two levels: that of the 
fairly influential Western minority who to one degree or another tended 

Missiles and Mind-sets: The Cold War Continues ♦ 1 73 

to pro-Soviet views; and those among, or with a direct influence on, the 
Western foreign policy establishment who to one degree or another 
believed that the Soviet Union was at least an unexceptional member of 
the international community. 

To put it another way, “idealists” thought the Soviet Union to be a 
good society, and “pragmatists” thought it to be a normal society. Both 
were wrong. 

As we have said, this is understandable in part because of the extreme 
mental pressures of the nuclear confrontation, and the apparent inabili¬ 
ty of Westerners to influence the other side as compared to that sides 
political input to the Western publics and governments. 

Between the United States and the USSR, as the other and initially 
roughly equal major nuclear power, negotiations on arms control were 
rightly seen as essential; it is fair to say that such moves to some slight 
extent cooled down Kremlin paranoia. But the dangers in the interna¬ 
tional sphere were not to be mastered by detente—nor were the Soviet 
leaders moderate-minded men equally seeking accommodation. 

We have spoken earlier of the mental quirks which led a section of 
those Westerners critical of their own society to temper the wind to the 
failings of that society's enemies. This applied, of course, not only to 
comparing Western social faults to the imaginary social triumphs of the 
Soviet Union but also to the Soviets' supposedly more acceptable for¬ 
eign policies. A search on Nexus of the use in American newspapers of 
the word “bellicose” of various leaders in the post-1979 period gives: 
Reagan—211 times, Thatcher—41, Brezhnev—5; and this in a period 
covering the Afghan war. As to those still further out, I noted (a per¬ 
fectly ordinary example) the Catholic bishop of Stockton, California, 
bad-mouthing his own government as totally untrustworthy, but urging 
as a solution to our international troubles the reposing of total trust 
in—the Soviet leaders! 

It is extraordinary to remember the uproar from his political oppo¬ 
nents which met Ronald Reagan’s characterization of the USSR as an 
“evil empire.” I chanced to be, with Richard Pipes, at a seminar in the 
State Department when the about-to-be-delivered speech was circulated 
to us. We both thought it unwise, and indicated as much to the rather 
righteous speechwriter—mainly because of the expected reaction, which 
in fact occurred. 

It was proclaimed that Reagan had called for a “crusade”—which he 


hadn’t. (The truth of the “evil empire” phrase was of course later pub¬ 
licly endorsed by post-Soviet leaders, including the then Russian 
Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev.) An interesting feature of the phrase 
was that it had less effect in the non-English-speaking countries of the 
West, in the absence of alliteration. 

This is not the place to discuss the details of the negotiations, the 
treaties and the proposed treaties between the United States and the 
Soviet Union. It will, however, be appropriate to consider how they were 
affected by the accompanying struggle for the minds of the Western 
publics and governments. 

There is a never-to-be-forgotten observation of deTocqueville’s: 

It is especially in the conduct of their foreign relations that democracies 
appear to me to be decidedly inferior to other governments. ... A 
democracy can only with great difficulty regulate the details of an impor¬ 
tant undertaking, persevere in a fixed design, and work out its execution in 
spite of serious obstacles. It cannot . . . await their consequences with 

This led to several lapses—in particular SALT II. As Lord Chalfont, 
former Labour Minister, said at the time it came before the U.S. Senate, 
in words applicable to the whole dangerous mishandling of the issue 
over the years: 

It is argued by people both in this country and in the United States that, 
if the Senate were to fail to ratify this treaty or outrage the Russians by 
demanding any form of amendment, the prestige of President Carter and 
of the whole American Presidency would be undermined; and that this 
would have effects upon the world balance of power altogether dispropor¬ 
tionate to the importance of the SALT agreement. I find this argument 
difficult to follow. If the treaty itself is bad and ineffective, then it seems 
to me that it would be far more dangerous to accept it uncritically than to 
say so now while the Senate is in the process of debating the ratification. 
It will be no good saying it afterwards. 

Andrei Sakharov sanely advised: 

Western leaders must not create the appearance of success in disarma¬ 
ment negotiations without real achievements: doing so, they would 

Missiles and Mind-sets: The Cold War Continues ♦ ljj 

deceive their own countries and—worst of all—provoke a unilateral dis¬ 
armament. The danger is real because of both the tight secrecy in socialist 
countries and the short-sightedness and domestic political maneuvering 
of certain Western politicians, who are prepared to jeopardise the delicate 
global balance for transitory political situations at home. 

Fortunately, there were thoughtful senators and others who present¬ 
ed that body with careful analysis. In particular, the late Senator Henry 
Jackson pointed out the slapdash acceptance of negative detail. He 
noted that even SALT I had allowed a Soviet superiority in crucial 
fields, and that neither SALT gave even the appearance, let alone the 
substance, of equality between the Soviet Union and the United States. 

In 1976 a team of selected “experts” had reported to the U.S. gov¬ 
ernment that Soviet intentions were peaceable. After various objections, 
a “B team” headed by Richard Pipes was formed. It concluded that the 
USSR, though up to a point cautious, was prepared to fight and win a 
nuclear war—an assessment later confirmed by Soviet military and 
other documents. Where Western advocates of detente Brezhnev-style 
have commonly denied that Soviet policy envisaged winning a nuclear 
war, V V Zagladin, First Deputy Head of the International Department 
of the Central Committee, noted as early as in 1988: 

In the 1970s and the first half of the 1980s the roots of many mistakes 
were in the conceptual approach. Repudiating nuclear war and conducting 
an active struggle for peace, we nevertheless proceeded from the assump¬ 
tion of the possibility of victory in a possible conflict. Here is the source 
of confrontation in relationships with the West. Only when the foreign 
and military policy concepts were adjusted away from that, only then did 
the foreign policy of our country become consistent. (Kornsotnolskaya 
Pravda } 26 June 1988, p. I) 

The Communist armies, as we now know, were on a very short notice 
for an invasion of West Germany, with the certainty of a tactical nuclear 
exchange. And military thinking in Moscow inclined to a view that 
nuclear war, while to be avoided, was winnable. From our point of view, 
such a peace was always shakily based. And it depended on the Soviets 
being denied superiority in military technology—as to not only missiles 
but, for example, tank effectiveness. 


But for the moment, the problem remained. At one point—an egre¬ 
gious example to be sure—we saw a ploy by the Soviet leadership that if 
their demands were not heeded, “harder-line” figures would prevail in 
the Kremlin. Stalin had already used this on Edward Stettinius in 1945! 
In the Brezhnev era, I remember Averell Harriman, who had been to 
Moscow as envoy of President-elect Carter, telling a group of us at the 
Woodrow Wilson Center that if the United States did not accept 
Brezhnevs demands, his “harder-line” rivals (so Brezhnev had himself 
told Harriman) would take over. This argument, not unknown in other 
spheres, amounts to saying: “II you don’t give me what I want voluntari¬ 
ly, my successor will take it by force.” 

It is sometimes asserted, even nowadays, that “cold warriors” were 
committed (often “ideologically”) to a dangerous, provocative and 
aggressive policy towards the USSR. I will quote some passages from a 
book I published on foreign policy in 1979, Present Danger: 

(a) A programme for peace today must have a three-fold aim: first, it must 
prevent the destruction of the Western culture; second, it must work con¬ 
tinually lor the maintenance of a permanent truce between the two cul¬ 
tures, accepting lor practical purposes the present existence ol a divided 
world; and, third, it must hope lor, wait lor and encourage the emergence 
of the principle of civic consensus in the more backward despotic sphere, 
leading to the eventual establishment of a stable world peace. 

(b) Perhaps the most realistic attitude for the West, barring total and 
unforeseeable change in the Kremlin, is to understand the dangers and 
revert to a sensible policy of unprovocatively matching the USSR in 
armament, and blocking Soviet expansionism. . . . Such a “temporary” 
suspension of expansionism would allow the positive forces in the USSR 
time to develop: even perhaps produce an evolution towards sanity, a 
gradual crumbling of the ideological foundations in the ruling group 
itself. If the regime survives, hopes of peace would centre on such a limit¬ 
ed evolution towards the progressive abandonment of its total claims in 
the world. This can best be attained by denying the Kremlin the possibili¬ 
ty of achieving these aims and at the same time making clear the advan¬ 
tage to be gained by cooperation rather than conflict. 

(c) Our foreign policy should have the short term aim of preserving 
world peace between antagonistic cultures, and the long term hope of 
securing not just a truce, but a truly peaceful world. The way to achieve 
this is not through aggressive crusading, but by example on the one hand 

Missiles and Mind-sets: The Cold War Continues ♦ 277 

and, on the other, by encouraging the evolution of despotic cultures from 
the economic, intellectual and civic stagnation which is the result of their 
present policies. 

(d) The [Soviet] weaknesses at home imply a point beyond which the 
USSR could not match the West in armaments, simply from over-strain of 
the economic base. There can be no need for panic about a limitless arms 
race. Once the West committed itself to reasonable strategic and conven¬ 
tional parity, and to firm diplomatic action, the USSR would have little 
choice—whatever its longer term intentions—but to accept the situation. 

This became, in effect, the policy President Reagan was to pursue 
with such success. 


It was also, sometimes, argued that negotiations on arms would be jeop¬ 
ardized if we included the human rights issue in the discussion. 

The late Charles Frankel, in his Human Rights and Foreign Policy\ pointed 
out that the human rights issue in its narrower sense can never be the 
sole moral touchstone of foreign policy, since, as he put it, “a desire to 
maintain peace and prevent bloodshed is not an immoral desire.” There 
are and were areas in which our status is merely humanitarian. If the 
Soviets treated their peasants as serfs, or beat up arrested criminals, we 
might have felt and said that this was bad behavior, perhaps even symp¬ 
tomatic of a bad attitude likely to have some relevance to their interna¬ 
tional stance, but not a key issue. 

But, as Koestler had urged in 1946, the free movement of people and 
ideas was another matter, and one absolutely central to the whole con¬ 
frontation: it was not only our sympathies that were engaged, but our 
interests too. For the way in which the Kremlin treated those advancing 
Western ideas when they were in its power—that is, within the Soviet 
Union—was a wholly clear indication of the way in which they would 
have treated the rest of us if they had had the opportunity. That is, the 
“ideological” warfare against bearers of Western ideas inside the USSR 
was one and the same as their campaign against the West. 

Clasnost was in fact one of the conditions, the main condition, for 
ending the Cold War. 

When in 1975 the Helsinki Agreement was drafted, “Basket 
Three”s guarantee of progress in the free movement of people and 


ideas was inserted, at the insistence of some of the smaller European 
states, quite specifically as essential to any lasting and reliable peace. 

The Final Act at Helsinki asserted flatly that 

the participating States recognize the universal significance of human 
rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for which is an essential factor 
for the peace, justice and well-being necessary to ensure the development 
of friendly relations and co-operation among themselves as among all 

Helsinki's “Basket Three" was an attempt to get from the Soviets, in 
exchange for other concessions, an implementation of these general 
points and the beginning of a free movement of people and ideas; the 
West had no other political demands. It will be noted that we asked no 
more than what we already granted: Communist ideas circulated freely in 
the West and Western citizens could move freely about the world. Nor 
did our negotiators make any unreal demands for immediate and total 
fulfillment of these points: the terms of the agreement were “gradually 
to simplify and to administer flexibly the procedure for exit and entry," 
“to ease regulations," “gradually to lower," “gradually to increase" (just as 
the Jackson Amendment asked for a relaxation of the restrictions on 
emigration, not instant freedom). Indeed, Helsinki was a most modest 
start, merely seeking a sign of the beginnings of Soviet tolerance towards 
their own citizens, even those who might not share the ideas of their gov¬ 
ernment or accept its claim to control their every move. 

Helsinki was intended to inaugurate a new epoch of goodwill. In 
Russia itself we would have seen, had its provisions been carried out, 
“the effective exercise of civil, political, economic, social, cultural and 
other rights and freedoms all of which derive from the inherent dignity 
of the human person and are essential for his free and full development." 

The Politburo was in something of a dilemma, for in the USSR, 
meanwhile, the dissident movement had arisen, with underground pub¬ 
lications. In Stalins time such efforts would have resulted in execution. 
Brezhnevs KGB chief told the leadership that the arrest of a few thou¬ 
sand people would destroy the movement. Numbers were in fact arrest¬ 
ed and sent, often to die, to the Gulag. The survivors carried on. 
Heavv-handed public trials were not a success—for the first time, writ¬ 
ers like Yuli Daniel and Andrei Sinyavskv were openly sentenced for 

Missiles and Mind-sets: The Cold War Continues ♦ 1 79 

their writings; in Stalins time the purged were at least accused of terror¬ 
ism or espionage. And above all, major figures like Solzhenitsyn, and 
later Sakharov, now emerged, to eliminate whom would have shaken 
world opinion. So the persecution remained halfhearted—Solzhenitsyn 
expelled from the country, Sakharov exiled to Gorky. 

There were other factors, but there is now no doubt that the leader¬ 
ship was concerned to avoid action likely to destroy Western illusions 
about Soviet actuality. 

In the West, however, it was actually the human rights issue that per¬ 
suaded the Western political public of the basic intransigence of the 
Soviet regime. The repressions were not enough to destroy non- 
Communist ideas at home, but they were enough to disgust the Western 

Progress was slow even on the small scale of permitting the reunifica¬ 
tion of American-Soviet families. It is hard to think of any earlier despot¬ 
ism that would have taken the Soviet position. The tardy, reluctant, 
incomplete action on this, which even if fully implemented would have 
affected a few hundred at most, was scarcely up to a bare-minimum 
requirement for membership in any remotely civilized community of 

The successes in matters of direct Western interest had always been 
such things as President Kennedy, in 1963, suspending cultural relations 
until Professor Barghoorn was released, President de Gaulle threatening 
to expel the Soviet ambassador unless Michel Tatus Russian wife and 
stepchild were allowed out—both almost instantaneously successful. 

Unsimilarly, when a young British lecturer, Gerald Brooke, was sent 
to labor camp for smuggling anti-Soviet pamphlets into the USSR, sev¬ 
eral of us made public protests, but the Foreign Office kept telling me 
not to rock the boat because quiet diplomacy in Moscow had already 
elicited hints of release. They even went to the abject length of continu¬ 
ing (against the wishes of its staff) the Soviet teacher exchange program 
with the polytechnic at which Brooke taught. After a year or two Brooke 
was released, and immediately told me that I had been right, and that 
such was the view in their own cases of all the political prisoners he 
met. Anatoli Scharansky, for example, said the same—that quiet diplo¬ 
macy was useless unless backed by public outrage. 

But, far more important, the supposed triumphs of quiet diplomacy 
were no more than extracting individual exceptions from a major back- 


ground of repression. Scharansky nobly pointed out that his own release 
counted for little if it merely compounded the nonrelease of hundreds 
of others. While we rejoiced at the result of cases like Scharansky s, we 
often failed to remember that the role of such celebration was to throw 
the fate of many others into obscurity, and to provide a false—or at any 
rate cheaply bought—aura of respectability to the jailers. 

I recall in the Nixon period how American envoys en route to 
Moscow on missions of quiet diplomacy about selected dissidents 
would rather anxiously ask the late Leonard Schapiro and myself 
whether the approach was the right one. We always answered no: a 
power could not base its policies on the hostage principle. As it was, the 
USSR, in exchange for making a few exceptions to its general line of 
conduct, was able to virtually silence the American governments public 
voice on the broader issue. 

One reason was certainly a deformation professionelle of the diplomatic 
establishment. Since diplomats’ forte is negotiation, they believe negoti¬ 
ation to be good in itself; and negotiation proper is a quiet matter. But 
the Soviets did what their interests required when the alternatives 
seemed less acceptable, and negotiation was merely a technical adjunct. 
To believe otherwise was to fall into the fallacy of the entrepreneur who 
thinks that a skeptical and experienced customer is more affected by the 
salesman than by the product. We need diplomats and salesmen to han¬ 
dle our policies and products, but there is more to international and 
economic affairs than that. Nor are these lessons obsolete. 

In general, negotiation with the USSR was thus skewed not only by 
constituencies in the Western body politic but by misconceptions with¬ 
in the Western governmental and diplomatic apparatus. At that time, I 
recall speaking to a group of American senators. Another Sovietologist 
had told them that it was wrong to “pressure’’ the USSR. Several 
seemed to agree. But when I pointed out that “pressure” was merely a 
hostile term for “If you want us to do something you want, you must 
do something we want,” and that this was the most elementary politics, 
put that way, they saw it at once. 

The Brezhnev regime was to some extent trapped by its wish to com¬ 
bine excessive weapons policies and expansionism in the African and 
other areas with a simultaneous attempt as far as possible to project a 
positive image in the West. This had two major results. First, it meant 
that though they might suppress the voices of dissent in the USSR 

Missiles and Mindsets: The Cold War Continues ♦ l8l 

itself, they could not take the KGB’s advice and arrest them by the thou¬ 
sand, nor could they employ their full measures of repression against 
people in the worlds eye. They clearly did not feel that their image 
could survive a total ban on emigration. When they signed the Helsinki 
Agreement, with its guarantee of the free movement of people and 
ideas, they found it hard to handle the unofficial Helsinki Watch 
Committees that sprang up among their subjects. And in general, they 
now had, and could do no more than contain, a dissident movement— 
something the USSR in its prime had never faced. And the times were 
ripe, the exhaustion of the Soviet idea so far gone, that this small begin¬ 
ning was already shaking the system. 

Again, cultural exchanges, things designed for—and fairly effective 
as—a means of giving the regime a good image, also meant more and 
more contact with and knowledge of the West among a growing section 
of the Soviet intellectual class. 

And the arms negotiations, even though of limited effectiveness, gave 
the Soviet foreign policy experts contact with the West and some feel 
for the true attitudes of the Western governments. It is in this class that 
one finds, in the early period of glasnost ) the most striking criticisms of 
Soviet foreign policy. Thus, again, unwanted truths penetrated the eche¬ 
lons of the apparat. Moreover, after such treaties it became increasingly 
difficult to represent the West as mad aggressors; or, rather, though 
internal propaganda on these lines persisted, it became increasingly 

6 . 

Yet the basic problem in the West remained an often inadequate con¬ 
ception of the Soviet psychology. 

The defect was not, strictly speaking, one of intellect or intelligence. 
Not even of judgment, in the abstract. It was, rather, one of the imagi¬ 
nation. There are minds of apparently high IQ, people of apparently 
great experience, who are unable to conceive of minds and men marked¬ 
ly different from themselves. Chamberlain and Roosevelt were not “stu¬ 
pid.” They simply lacked the scope needed to envisage alien minds as 
they really were. They were not, in a crucial sense, “men of the world.” 

For the capacity to envisage the alien is not distributed according to 
any of our usual intelligence tests. People can be able, clever, but not in 
the deepest sense wise. Examples of a run-of-the-mill academic or 


bureaucratic or even political “brilliance” are not seldom regarded as 
adequate in the responsible offices of the West, with disastrous results. 

Shakespeare, in fact, was a better guide to the modern world than—in 
particular—certain circles with an inordinately powerful influence on the 
West, for he even produces characters, like Cassio, who typify the inabili¬ 
ty of inexperienced minds to understand the Iagos of the real world. 

It is easy enough—for any of us—to fall into the trap of thinking 
that others think, within reason, like ourselves. But this trap is precisely 
the error that must be avoided in foreign affairs. It was probably less 
common till the present century. Gladstone could scarcely have felt that 
the Mahdi was approachable in terms of Western liberalism. But nowa¬ 
days the alien political orders had a new advantage. While a Sultan or 
Shah with turban and scimitar, with titles like Commander of the 
Faithful and references like the Peacock Throne, would not have 
appeared to be within the usual concepts of George III, in this century 
the equally—indeed, far more—alien political rulers of the USSR and 
elsewhere dressed in a version of Western clothing and spoke a dialect, 
however perverse and false, of the political language of the West. 

When they were with Westerners, they talked with amenity and ami¬ 
ability. I have myself heard from very high-level Western negotiators 
remarks that showed a total ignorance, or ignoring, of other firsthand 
evidence—such as the coarse snarling and jeering by Brezhnev and his 
group at the handcuffed and helpless Dub£ek and his colleagues when 
they were paraded as prisoners before the Politburo in 1968. 

The notion of a “reasonable” set of Soviet leaders—that is, of men 
more or less assumed to have motives generally regarded as natural by 
well-meaning American academics and others—long bedeviled policy 
towards the Soviet Union. 

If Churchill was not deceived as to Hitler, this was not a matter of 
intelligence, but rather of a knowledge of history, and of evil. 
Chamberlain could not conceive of anyone whose attitudes were not 
more or less within the limits of those prevalent in the Midlands. What 
was and is essential is a grasp, if not of the particulars of a non-Western 
history and political psychology, at least the notion that such may be 
totally different, totally aberrant, from our point of view. Some camou¬ 
flage (as in the Soviet case) works better than others. All the same, the 
example of such phenomena as Pol Pot, Khomeini, Amin, Bokassa, 
Castro might have shown Western observers that their assumptions were 

Missiles and Mind-sets: The Cold War Continues ♦ 18] 

not necessarily valid as to the whole range of political motivation. Ideas 
based on unsubstantiated desk work, or even mere assumptions of 
“rationality, 1 ” continued to undermine the West, and still apply in other 

Every so often the Soviets did something that shook the world and 
showed them in their true colors even to the most myopic apologists 
and appeasers. For the time being, those who had been dangerously in 
error about Soviet motivations and intentions seem to have been 
shocked into facing reality. But when a year or two had passed, the same 
delusions reappeared. 


We have stressed, and in any other context could rightly be criticized as 
having overstressed, the misconceptions that to one degree or another 
affected sections of the Western public and of Western officialdom. 

These have been put forward in the context of studying, and learning 
from, the ways of thinking that had such effects. But of course, in the 
long run a reasonably sound policy kept Western misunderstanding 
within limits, and, however shakily on occasion, sound policy prevailed. 

On the Soviet side, the dynamic of ideological expansionism led to 
disaster. But in the West the end of the Cold War proper led to some 
remarkable claims, put forward in books by a largely anti-Western 
clerisy or advocacy. 

These are concerned to show that the West did not “win” the Cold 
War, in one egregious case even asserting that the West and America 
“lost” it, not physically but “morally”: the argument being that its psy¬ 
chological effects distorted what would otherwise presumably have been 
a better society here. Perhaps so, though the “otherwise” might have 
included the Stalinization of Europe, and not only Europe. And what¬ 
ever may be urged in these ill-defined matters, it is clear that the Soviet 
Union lost the Cold War. To say so is, we are sometimes told, a repre¬ 
hensible “triumphalism.” Still, it does not seem out of place to insist, 
with all the reservations that could be made, on the central point that 
the West saved itself and its liberties, and that its totalitarian enemy fal¬ 
tered and failed. 

We sometimes see a rather more serious view, that the Soviet Union 
would anyhow have collapsed sooner or later, and that the West s invest¬ 
ment, or projected investment, in military technologies which Moscow 


could not match played no part. This is simplistic. Of course the vari¬ 
ous “causes” interacted, and cannot be crudely disentangled. But the 
failure of the economy was (as Gorbachev says) due in large part to its 
“militarization” beyond what it could stand. In this context, we may 
note Westerners who said at the time that the USSR was economically 
strong and could resist any suggested Western pressures, but who now 
say it was so weak that no such pressures were needed. This last view 
misses the point that a dog with rabies is in poor health, but that it 
would be a mistake to pat him: similarly with a “weak” Soviet Union 
disposing of a myriad warheads. 

Details may be disputed, but the fallacy in question has on the whole 
only been accepted in certain Western circles, while rejected in Russia by 
those who had been at the center of Soviet policy. This was made clear 
on a number of occasions—one of the most striking being the contri¬ 
bution of former Soviet Foreign Minister Aleksandr Bessmertnykh and 
the almost equally influential Anatoly Chernayev at a conference on the 
Cold War held at Princeton early in 1993, both of whom stated flatly 
that President Reagans Strategic Defense Initiative had played a major 
role in convincing the Soviet leadership that the USSR could not com¬ 
pete economically or technologically. (It was of course not only SDI 
that had this effect but the whole superiority in armament that it 
implied.) In much of the West, all this has largely been discussed at a 
low level of political partisanship rather than on its merits. (There are 
even books emerging from American academic circles which have no 
basis at all in Russian documentation: one of them, believe it or not, has 
its “study” proving that the Soviet Union made more concessions than 
the United States.) 

The Soviet regime had ruined its economy by putting every possible 
resource into the arms effort, and this had failed. Within a few years the 
Cold War was over. But it has, or should have, given the West important 
lessons in understanding, and coping with, threats arising from intrinsi¬ 
cally aggressive mind-sets. 

Part II 





Scar Tissue: 

A Note on 

Post-Soviet Russia 


I t is not our purpose to give a full description, let alone make a full 
analysis, of the breakdown of the Soviet system. 

To transform such an inheritance as it left into a prosperous, demo¬ 
cratic society seemed a simple task to some Western observers. A free 
market would release Economic Man; elections would install Democracy. 
The problems were clear and so were the solutions. There was no more 
to be said. 

In fact, as we have seen, there was much more to be said. 

Above all, we need to consider the nature of the distortions which 
were the main legacy of the Soviet regime. We do not seek to predict the 
country's particular future over the coming decade or two. A variety of 
well-informed but incompatible judgments on that future are now being 
put forward—which may imply that immediate prospects at least rest 
on a knife edge. We deal in a general way with, but do not “estimate," 
the complex forces that may determine the country's future. 

Much that is said here applies, to a lesser degree (and not in detail), 
to the other post-Communist countries. We are concerned with Russia 
as the great exemplar of the post-Communist social and political order 
in all its difficulties, and at the same time the one country in that cate¬ 
gory which could still prove a serious danger to the world. 


2 . 

The crucial decision was the launching of glasnost and perestroika in the 
late 1980s. Gorbachev and the brighter of his colleagues had at last 
seen that massive and continuous falsification was not only ruinous to 
morale but also incompatible with economic success, and even that the 
prevention of discussion was stultifying the whole political and social 
order. When your seas dry up, it is hard to stomach a fantasy of beaches 
and breakers. But as glasnost came, the struggle to attain reality grew ever 
more intense and faced major mental difficulties. 

The newer technologies had proved inimical to the system. The for¬ 
eign radios broke the state s monopoly of news and opinion and showed 
many Russians that the official truths were untenable. It is no wonder 
that Andrei Gromyko, then Soviet Foreign Minister, announced that to 
orbit a TV satellite broadcasting in Russian would be regarded as a hos¬ 
tile act and that the Soviets would shoot it down. Then the arrival of 
Xerox machines, even though they were in theory under strict control, 
gave the previously top-copy-and-five-carbons samizdat a great boost. 

When glasnost hit Russia's own television, the effect was stunning. The 
televised debates in the Supreme Soviet, with Andrei Sakharov standing 
up to Mikhail Gorbachev and speaking for democracy, resulted in facto¬ 
ries everywhere closing down, with workers clustered round the sets. 
More generally, in the Gorbachevite glasnost , the destruction of the 
Stalinist myth (and eventually of the Leninist one) came not in single 
refutations but in a massive, continual hammering in of the facts over 
months and years. This is how mental climates are changed. 

The emergence of civic connections where a sort of atomization of 
the country had previously been seen was also much advanced by the 
new technology. Groups hitherto isolated were now in continual touch. 
During the August 1991 coup, fax machines ensured communication 
and copies of declarations from Pskov to Vladivostok were all over the 
lampposts of Moscow and Leningrad. 

But the collapse of Communism had left a heritage of ruin, not only 
in the economy, the ecology, health, politics, but also—and above all— 
in the minds and psyches of its citizens. In 1987, well after the glasnost 
period started, the prominent Russian Academician D. S. Likhachev 
wrote of how Stalinism “spread deep roots in the mentality of several 
generations. . . . [Tjhe fear that it instilled in our minds and souls still 
shackles peoples consciousness and paralyses it." A hundred similar 

Scar Tissue: A Note on Post-Soviet Russia ♦ i8g 

comments on all the various mental and psychological scars could be 
quoted. In fact, in the words of the poet Fazil Iskander, “under the 
totalitarian regime, it was as if you were forced to live in the same room 
with a violently insane man,” and such effects are long-lasting. 

We cannot exactly speak of a folie a deux cent millions. Nevertheless, 
the whole population was deeply affected. At the lower intellectual 
level, the stultification was even more marked than the ideologization 
that accompanied it and caused it. In 1977 Andrei Sakharov was visit¬ 
ing a labor camp area in Mordovia, and one of the guards in charge 
seemed moved when listening to some poems being recited, Sakharov 

Maybe fm naive, but when I think of Vanyas face that day, and of similar 
encounters, I begin to believe that this wretched, downtrodden, corrupt, 
and drunken people—no longer even a people in any real sense of the 
word—is not yet entirely lost, not yet dead . . . and compassion for oth¬ 
ers and a thirst for spiritual fulfillment have not yet been utterly extin¬ 

This gloomy generality and not very optimistic hope may have been an 
extreme view. But it dramatized, even if too sharply, a fairly widespread 

The first influential—though at the time secret—analysis came in 
1983 from the official sociologist Tatyana Zaslavskaya, who later 
summed up: 

The primary reasons for the need for perestroika were not the sluggish econ¬ 
omy and the rate of technological development but an underlying mass 
alienation of working people from significant social goals and values. 
This social alienation is rooted in the economic system formed in the 
1930s, which made state property, run by a vast bureaucratic apparatus, 
the dominant form of ownership. . . . For 50 years it was said that this 
was public property and belonged to everyone, but no way was ever found 
to make workers feel they were the co-owners and masters of the facto¬ 
ries, farms, and enterprises. They felt themselves to be cogs in a gigantic 

And again, as another Russian sociologist has written, “Decades of des¬ 
titution have shaped in our people the psychology of poverty and want.” 



In politics, we have seen, to put it mildly, something less than a rapid 
and painless modernization. 

As the sociologist Andrei Bystritsky told David Remnick, “We 
wiped out the best and brightest in this country and, as a result, we 
sapped ourselves of intelligence and energy,” with the concomitant 
result on the political plane that the present leaders could not be expect¬ 
ed to be up to the level of “Washington or Madison or Hamilton or 

In fact, no trained political class existed. 

Again, institutional changes are in themselves only part of the prob¬ 
lem. It has been said that the division of powers in Western countries 
leads to compromise, in Russia to civil war. Not quite, but as I write the 
executive and legislative branches are, as Fazil Iskander (again) put it, 
like two exhausted boxers locked in a clinch—and this at least gave time 
for compromise and adjustments to become habitual, though hardly 

As to economics, the USSR was unique in another way. It was an 
overdeveloped country, with too much industry (particularly heavy indus¬ 
try), producing useless or military goods. A similar point could be made 
about the extravagantly wasteful methods of oil production, compound¬ 
ed by enormous (and ecologically disastrous) leakages through improp¬ 
erly maintained pipelines. Again, roads and buildings are in a bad state. 
In fact, an enormous effort simply to retrieve the disasters inherited by 
the old regime is needed: an effort hard to bring the exhausted Russian 
people to face, especially after so many years of nonproductive effort 
forced upon them—with such meager results that their whole attitude 
to work became eroded. On the land, the old hardworking peasantry has 
virtually disappeared. In the factories, the watchword of “They pretend 
to pay us, we pretend to work” largely prevails. 

The legacy of socialism was, in Mikhail Gorbachev’s phrase, “collec¬ 
tive responsibility and individual irresponsibility.” 


The “creation” of a market economy is, however, to a great extent a 
misleading concept. Market economies have emerged rather than been 
decreed. Socialist economies are, of course, consciously set up by the 
state. The problem in Eastern Europe was to set up the conditions 

Scar Tissue: A Note on Post-Soviet Russia ♦ tgi 

under which a market economy could come into being. First, naturally, 
the rule of law—in principle a simple thing, in practice not so. 

It is not as if a country can, as it were, be put in dry dock and 
equipped with new institutions in a careful and considered way. The 
whole venture is more like trying to reequip a ship at sea, in stormy 
waters, with a new engine. 

Vaclav Klaus, for some years Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, 
argued that reform is bound to be painful: “The systematic transforma¬ 
tion is not an exercise in applied economics or applied political science,” 
but a process involving the whole population and destroying “the for¬ 
mer political, social and economic equilibrium.” To succeed, it must be 
continually, carefully and credibly presented to the citizenry. This above 
all requires, he said, the formation of standard political parties, without 
which there is no scope for politicians and no “mechanisms” for demo¬ 
cratic politics. It involves institutional changes—political, economic, 
fiscal and legal—together with changes in habits and customs. None of 
this can be “masterminded” by any a priori plan. And, he added, “the 
costs the people have to bear must be widely shared, otherwise the frag¬ 
ile political support is lost”—as indeed it was, at least temporarily, in 
his own country. Nor could the formal institutionalizing of “democra¬ 
cy” or the launching of a “market” form of economy provide the imme¬ 
diate attainment of Western standards. 

With the Russians the position is, of course, fir more difficult than 
with the Czechs. And to enlist the efforts of anything like the people as a 
whole faces huge difficulties. Even so, it is not so much the people, or 
political diversity, that is holding things up, as a justifiable lack of popular 
confidence in the political process. Again, the Russian bureaucracy has got 
into the habit of not fulfilling contracts, not fulfilling duties. In the dem¬ 
ocratic countries, contracts are enforced, delinquents fined or dismissed. 
When we speak of the rule of law, we mean contract law as well. 


By the 1980s the Soviet Union had already become a vast kleptocracy. 
As Alain Besangon noted, money had begun to play a major role, in 
addition to the long-standing perquisites of power, foreshadowing (as 
Besangon put it) a sort of “savage capitalism ” The large-scale criminal 
element had, in fact, become almost institutionally intertwined with the 


There were stunning illegalities. Large amounts of caviar were sent 
west in tins labeled herring, with much of the top staff of the Ministry 
of Fisheries implicated. An export consignment of spades turned out to 
be made of titanium. A dozen tanks, crated as trucks, were barely 
stopped at a Black Sea port. On another tack, huge amounts of illicit 
vodka were distilled. And the ingenuity 7 of some protocapitalists was 
astonishing: in one of the Central Asian republics a would-be entrepre¬ 
neur discovered that no limit had been set for the delivery of cotton for 
therapeutic work to a local mental hospital. He bribed the director, who 
certified his patients as sane, then threw them out and replaced them 
with his own people, who soon had a profitable operation going (this, 
too, involving fixing the relevant local ministry). 

As with the political scene, all this marked the post-Soviet heritage in 
the economic field. When the socialist order failed, the only class with 
access to and experience in economic matters was the state bureaucratic 
stratum, which went ahead and looked after its class interest in almost 
Marxist style. The leading or active elements used the emergence of the 
market to (as it is often put) “loot” the country's resources. The lesser 
bureaucracy continued to be parasitical on. the economy, taking bribes 
for permits and so on. 

The point here is that a subterranean, and risky, tvpe of capitalism 
already existed—ready to man the abandoned bastions of semicriminal 
socialism. We should indeed note that there were people within the old 
economy who played a positive role, outside of and in principle con¬ 
trary to the Plan—the stolkachi\ or fixers, employed by factories to seek 
out and bargain for materials in short supply. And now, especially 
among younger people, a genuine entrepreneurial “small business” class 
began to emerge, while many others supplemented their incomes in vari¬ 
ous economically positive ways. Even as to the “biznes” class proper, 
Alexander Yakovlev tells us that though he had never expected anything 
like it, at least some of its members were providing some of the drive 
which had been absent from the old system. 

6 . 

The responsibility for the abysmal level from which Russia has to raise 
itself lies with the Soviet regime. But a section of the population looks 
back on the Brezhnev era as one of comparative prosperity. So, in cer¬ 
tain respects, it was—at the cost of using up the country’s resources. 
But such nostalgia has its political and mental dangers. 

Scar Tissue: A Note on Post-Soviet Russia ♦ /pj 

The ex-Communist parties now or recently in power in Eastern 
Europe have lost their ideologies. Their tilt is etatist, but hardly more so 
than some Western trends. In Russia alone, the Communist Party, with 
probably less immediate chance of full power, keeps its name. Its 
younger leaders would like it to become “Socialist” or “Social 
Democratic.” But the older traditionalists will not give it up. This is 
obviously a bad sign. Nor are political upsets in Russia impossible. Even 
so, reversion to the old economic, let alone political, system seems virtu¬ 
ally impossible. One reason is that, except among this stratum of 
dinosaurs, Marxism is extinct—in the sense that it is simply mentioned 
with no more than a sneer in anything resembling intellectual debate, as 
is even more the case in Eastern Europe (though one philosophy profes¬ 
sor at Prague University is said to be a “Marxist”). 

Yet—a peculiar anomaly—there are now voices in Russia who have 
given up Marx but kept Lenin! 


A cognate inheritance from Soviet times is, among some elements, its 
built-in xenophobia. The Communist system not only imposed its own 
ideologically based mental distortions on the population, it also encour¬ 
aged and employed more archaic paranoid elements. The hatred directed 
against the West over forty years was indeed ideologically based: VAD 
(Praising American Democracy) and PZ (Abasement before the West) 
were official categories for arrest. But even at the higher Communist 
level, there still existed a more primitive xenophobia. 

There is now wide support in Moscow's opinion polls for the idea 
that the West is consciously trying to ruin the Russian economy, with a 
view to converting the country into a backward source of raw materials. 

At the same time, leading figures among the not-so-ex-Communists, 
such as Anatoly Lukyanov, often say, and apparently believe, that 
Gorbachev and Yakovlev were CIA agents entrusted with the destruction 
of the Soviet regime. 

It need hardly be said that all such phenomena are signs of a diseased 
psychology, and that their political significance lies in whether, and to 
what extent, they can be used to fuel a politics of a revanchist type. 

Russia is a country rich in raw materials. In fact, it was mainly profits 
from oil and natural gas which kept the Soviet economy from earlier col¬ 
lapse. These riches are not being properly exploited today—in part because 
crucial foreign investment is unwelcome for what one can only call para- 

194 ♦ facing the consequences 

noid reasons: this widespread Russian notion that foreigners will succeed 
in robbing the country. Such attitudes tend to cut Russia off from the 
world economically as well as politically, physically as well as culturally. 

Western investment is necessary not only for the proper development 
of Russian resources but also as a sign that Russia has entered the world 

8 . 

On the positive side, Russia has now had eight years of pluralist poli¬ 
tics—as one Russian said to me, this is not as good as a thousand years, 
but much better than none. It has had free, if not fair, elections, and a 
free or freeish press. The Swedish economist Anders Aslund remarked 
some years ago that for Russia to go through six months without disas¬ 
ter must be seen as a triumph. So far, disaster has been avoided. 

The distortions of the public mind have none the less not been over¬ 
come. To write of post-Soviet Russia is to examine “rubble,” as 
Solzhenitsyn put it. The collapse of the old structure has left a chaos 
that has not yet settled down into anything like normality. The immedi¬ 
ate outlook is still confused—with nothing like a clear outcome in a sit¬ 
uation without clearly defined parties, and a turbulence of conflicting 
and often self-destructive interests and sentiments. 

It is in this context that a prominent Moscow liberal wrote, “We 
cannot go back to Stalin, but we could still become a second-class coun¬ 
try—poor, cruel, and cut off from the West.” An economic adviser to 
the Russian government, Lyudmila Piyasheva, summed up that the 
country is “a limited democracy with a semi-state, semi-privatized 
economy . . . anarchic, corrupt and oligarchic.” 

A further disquieting thought is that the political and economic 
order now prevailing in Russia strongly resembles in extreme form a cor- 
poratist -etatiste pseudocapitalism not unlike the negative phenomena 
now also emerging in the West and elsewhere. 

The main point, especially from the Western point of view, is 
whether such a Russia could emerge as the bearer of an expansionist 
chauvinism, not indeed of the global and absolutist type, yet still a dan¬ 
gerous entity on the world scene. 

The actual disintegration of the Russian state would be a disaster— 
and while nuclear weapons still abound, it would be a danger on a glob¬ 
al scale. A truly despotic chauvinist Russia would be, if not quite as 
dangerous, still deplorable. 

Scar Tissue: A Note on Post-Soviet Russia ♦ igj 

These are pessimistic scenarios, and even if they occur may not be 
irreversible. But history has often taken unlikely turns, and it is clearly 
incumbent on the West to do everything possible to help Russia, long 
devastated by a dangerous malady and still very far from being in good 
health, on the road to recovery. A reasonably peaceful, reasonably pros¬ 
perous, reasonably civic Russia may be the crucial element in the crises 
that still threaten the world. 

Chapter XI 


In a Wayward West 


W estern” political culture implies nothing remotely resem¬ 
bling perfection, or even perfectibility. On the contrary, we 
can only look on it as the best and most hopeful arrange¬ 
ment available to us in the world of reality and enormously superior to 
its competitors past and present. 

All real societies contain greed, power mania, sloth, incompetence, 
paranoia. All societies contain special interests, not only material ones 
but emotional ones too. And it may not be going too far to say that 
every consensual society experiences cycles of degeneration from which, 
when the results become clear, it pulls up sharply, often at the last 
moment—or fails to do so. 

So the free society itself should not be Ideified: it is a system of 
compromise between the individual and the community, between the 
population and the state. This endlessly generates friction, myopia, cor¬ 
ruption, faction, and perhaps always will. Nor shall we ever have politi¬ 
cians who understand every problem, who have appropriate plans for 
solving them, and who are able to put those plans into effect. 

Meanwhile, many of our present-day problems arise from, or are 
greatly worsened by, mental attitudes that, though not usually ideologi¬ 
cal in the totalitarian sense, show a family resemblance. That is to say, 
they are usually the result of giving if not absolute, at any rate excessive, 
status to political or other concepts. 

2 . 

All-encompassing theories of history and social change have indeed lost 
their luster. Serious economists and political scientists have abandoned, 

In a Wayward West ♦ 797 

or are abandoning, the attempt to impose an unattainable rigor on their 

Intellectually, one might have thought, most of the issues before us 
have, in fact, already been settled, or seen as without substance. The old 
absolute notions that environment counted for everything, and heredity 
for nothing; that liberty is possible without private property; that pros¬ 
perity is achievable in the absence of what used to be called a middle 
class; that gender, and other matters, are a “social construct”—all these 
are crumbling away, or are no longer taken seriously outside their sects. The 
idea of a state-run economy is a marginal fad (one of the most interest¬ 
ing data in the moral comparison between social and individual effort, so 
often conceded to the former, comes when the critic Joseph Frank notes 
Dostoevsky’s telling of his fellow convicts in Siberia that they were at 
their best when privately working to earn a few kopeks, which “guaran¬ 
teed the individual a sense of self-possession and moral autonomy’’). 

Again, the statistical basis of much social and economic argument is 
now known to be defective. And as to policy, it is now seen that, as 
Peter Drucker has remarked, no single piece of macroeconomic advice 
given by experts to their government has ever had the results predicted. 

So far so good. But on the loss side, we have to note—and have 
noted—that the sects we speak of still pervade the less scholarly quar¬ 
ters of academe, and hence intrude from time to time on the real world. 
Worse, there has still been a failure to cope with the remnants of etatiste 
and other excesses in the mental atmosphere. In politics and administra¬ 
tion these attitudes left over from earlier ideological pollution are still 
inhaled. This almost unwitting holdover from a past that those con¬ 
cerned have often repudiated in a superficial, conscious sense still per¬ 
vades thought and policy to a surprising degree. 

Moreover, it coincides with, and gives impetus and excuse to, a varied 
caste of bureaucracy, large-scale capitalism, and government, all tending 
to a new corporatism. 

3 . 

Until recently there was rhetoric—even overblown rhetoric—in all 
political debate in the West, but the rhetoric was, in general, a sort of 
coloring on genuine and serious policy argument. Now the rhetoric, the 
oversimplified and emotional case, often tends to be almost all that is 
presented to the public mind. 


This seems to be based on the assumption that the public is not pre¬ 
pared to listen to anything not brief and simple* Whether this is true 
seems doubtful: the public is capable of quite complicated thought in 
dealing with its own affairs. It is also capable of rejecting the extreme 
positions presented to it on issues (for instance, abortion) and taking a 
moderate stance. 

Michael Oakeshotts definition of a civilized political scene as one in 
which the passions do not become overheated would not lead him, or any¬ 
one else, to imagine a politics of purely rational and cool debate. And even 
when a polity as a whole more or less answers Oakeshotts criterion, there 
are bound to be excesses: keeping these in check is the most we can expect. 

When there are no real causes for faction, insubstantial ones have 
served, ever since those chariot-race fans nearly destroyed the Byzantine 
government. Opposition to particular governments in one or another 
Western country often generated factiousness of such intensity that in 
some cases it amounted to general support for the successive totalitarian 
aggressors. But naturally, examples of the more extreme factionalism 
came and still come from those who are actually committed to closed 
ideologies, or, less damagingly though still damagingly, victims of some¬ 
thing like monomania on a single issue. 

We now seem to meet perhaps not such extremes of partisanship, but 
still socially deleterious attitudes. These are, of course, to be found across 
the whole range of opinion, and among all sections of the population. But 
their pervasiveness among the “educated” is the crux. When Orwell saw 
the man in the street as both too sane and too stupid to hold some of the 
views to be found among intellectuals, he touched a nub, though of course 
a section of the less educated or uneducated is and has always been the 
prey, though not the originator, of ideologies—and “commitment” gener¬ 
ally works against fairly amicable compromise or toleration. 

One symptom is a reverence, as we have noted, for the “activist,” who 
devotes much of his or her energy to securing the triumph of his or her 
political or other cause. Whether or not this is good depends, surely, on 
two things. First, is the cause good? Or if it sounds good, would its suc¬ 
cess in fact contribute to human happiness or advancement? Second, 
even if the cause is in this sense good, does the activist use methods that 
are destructive of other goods? (To which might be added, no doubt 
less importantly, does the activist gradually make a career of his 
activism, becoming part of a quasi-professional, even a profitable, polit¬ 
ical-type machine?) 

In a Wayward West 

l 99 

The trouble is, again, a belief in various “certainties” accepted on 
insufficient grounds. We find this in such matters as global warming, 
recycling and related ecological themes, where—often enough—sim¬ 
plistic assertions have been accepted without serious consideration (and 
often transmitted in crude form to defenseless schoolchildren, who in 
some cases become priggish enforcers at home). On domestic issues, the 
activist themes represent exaggerated—even panicky—reactions to very, 
genuine problems requiring careful thought and policy decisions. 
Unfortunately, such activist solutions too often project themselves into 
the political realm, and hence affect policy. 

It has been argued—a century ago by Herbert Spencer, for example— 
that only people who are passionately devoted to reforming a social evil 
are effective. Clearly this is a worthwhile point. Still, such success has 
usually been mediated through compromise or teamwork with practical 
politicians—and these latter may also have a strong, even though less 
heated, moral commitment. Nowadays the trouble is that they may feel a 
need for activist political support and surrender their mediating role. 

It is true that movements as such should not be judged by their more 
extreme adherents. The trouble is rather that it is precisely the sensa¬ 
tionalist views that gain the public ear in best-sellers, articles, television 
programs, and, often, the status of a constituency. 

One example of the result of these attitudes will suffice: the feminis- 
tical arrangements now found in the American armed forces. Of course 
women can fill certain military posts—in World War II they were in 
action with Britain’s antiaircraft batteries, handling the radar, but not 
the heavy ammunition or the guns: equally in action, equally in danger, 
but operating under different physical constraints (and not, incidentally, 
sharing billets). Now, in the United States, women have been “integrat¬ 
ed” into infantry units. But since they are in general unable to pass the 
physical tests, these tests are lowered. Similarly with the fire depart¬ 
ments in Los Angeles and elsewhere. If this trend persists, the United 
States will have infantry unable to match that of potential opponents. 
And so with the victims of fire in those cities who live up walls higher 
than the new criteria match. Similar demands are not made for women 
to enter the American football teams; nor that women’s tennis champi¬ 
onships should be assimilated to men’s. 

There are, of course, other reasons for not using women in infantry 
units. We are not here concerned to argue the whole case, since the 
above point alone is enough to destroy the concept (as I find whenever 


it is presented to remotely reasonable people of every political persua¬ 
sion^. But our purpose here is different: to note first that we have here a 
classic example of an idea in conflict with reality. And, worse, that it has 
been put into effect by government action—that is, by the effective 
political pressure of an ideological sect with the unseemlv acquiescence 
of the political and military establishments. 

Meanwhile, in Britain a more defensible admission of women to cer¬ 
tain sections of the military was advanced by the minister concerned on 
the grounds that the armed forces “must reflect’* their society. One may 
ask why. and what does this mean? But also, where does the “must” 
come from? 

And this type of unconsidered reaction is, of course, found in many 
fields. Thus, to blame “capitalism*’ for pollution, except in the crude 
sense that some industry emits fumes, fails on a dozen obvious 
grounds—that it was far worse in the USSR: that it much improved in 
Britain following the end of state industries (this was in part because 
they had been old and inefficient, but also in part because they had 
“regulated* themselves). More generally, the whole environmental pic¬ 
ture presented in schools and elsewhere is, to put it mildly, highly dubi¬ 
ous. The trouble, as ever, seems to be that continuous misdirection is 
more effective—over the short run at least—than the frequent but not 
constant voices of critical argument. 

Such aberrations are commonly accompanied by the notion of an 
enemy class, or sex, or race, determined to oppose all change. This is, as 
we have said, Marxism come again, a Manichaean view of politics. 
Passionate reformers have not only often blamed the whole social order 
for results which other and opposite social orders equally produce, they 
have often held that the despotic states must be good really, because 
their own opponents in the West attack them so strongly; or, by a simi¬ 
lar process of thought, that the despotisms which criticize faults in the 
democracies so much must themselves be the representatives of 
reforming ideas. Besides, one’s own grievances always appear larger than 
worse ones far away, unless one makes the effort required for any 
responsible comment. As Tennvson said in his “To One Who Ran 
Down the English’ : 

You make our faults too gross, and thence maintain 

Our darker future. May vour fears be vain! 

In a Wayward West ♦ lOl 

At times the small black fly upon the pane 
May seem the black ox of the distant plain. 

There is a smugness in “Look at me being pragmatic.” But there are 
also dangers in the attitude, commoner outside than inside government, 
"Look at me being idealistic. 1 To congratulate oneself on ones warm 
commitment to the environment, or to peace, or to the oppressed, and 
think no more is a profound moral fault. The true conscience includes 
an intellectual conscience. By their fruits ye shall know them, not just by 
their intentions. 


Most periods are characterized by a seepage of earlier general Ideas into 
their whole mental atmosphere, somewhat diluted but still pervasive. 

A bureaucrat today does not think of himself as putting into effect 
part of a highly debatable idea. He takes the nature ot his aims and 
methods for granted. As John Maynard Keynes once wrote, “I am sure 
that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with 
the gradual encroachment of ideas”; but bureaucracy is often an interest 
group that is also the more or less conscious purveyor of a set of ideas. 
And of course even apart from the bureaucracy itself, we see the cre¬ 
ation of a class of citizens who are, not temporarily but over years, 
dependent on government support and are a constituency for its contin¬ 
uance. (This should remind us of the problems of Russia.) Any increase 
in the number on the government payroll beyond a certain point is par¬ 
asitical on society. Which is to say that every given increase in these 
numbers should be regarded as exceptional, and supported by argu¬ 
ments that are not merely strong but overwhelming. 

As to bureaucracy itself, theories of its nature and development have 
been put forward. The only points that need making here are twofold. 
First, that in a consensual, civic and developing society, the states role 
needs to be limited. Second, that in the purely economic field, state 
ownership or control cannot without actual disaster or decay exceed a 
proportion that is under debate but is usually held to be a maximum of 
some 30 percent of GNP. 

Thus we are not faced with the choice between total governmental 
apathy and total governmental control. Hayek points out that all 
economies and social orders are to some degree “planned” in the sense 


that governments, or even groups of citizens, usually have general aims 
for advancing or adjusting the current condition of affairs. 

“Bureaucracy” exists not only in governmental machinery but also in 
industrial firms, universities and other bodies. In part, bureaucratic pro¬ 
liferation is due to ever-increasing access to ever-increasing amounts of 
information. But while there is no theoretical limit to the amount of 
information that might be produced, there is a limit to the amount that 
can be handled or digested. 

Again, success and promotion in the world of officialdom are now 
associated with achievement—by which is meant not successful admin¬ 
istration as such but the launching of some new scheme. Nor do mod¬ 
est but viable improvements attract as much praise as sensational or 
attention-getting ventures. Moreover, as Weber points out, mistaken 
bureaucratic decisions do not undermine bureaucracy; on the contrary, 
the resulting trouble requires further bureaucratic effort. 

Any government needs an administrative machinery; and though this 
needs to be kept as far as possible under public control, a civil service is 
in itself both worthy and useful. Its proliferation beyond a certain 
point, not readily definable, is another matter. Since it is not in principle 
governed by economic considerations the way most other jobs are, the 
built-in tendency to expand is not subject to more or less automatic 
constraints. We see the state as a mechanism for enforcing the legal 
order, maintaining the common defense, and such other activities that 
from time to time have appeared to be suitable to central authority. This 
notion of the state is wholly different from that of the totalitarian 
movements and regimes. For them the state is the possessor of total 
power over its subjects, and is the practical embodiment of the ideologi¬ 
cal fantasies and intentions of the rulers. For us the state can indeed be 
seen as the embodiment, for certain prescribed purposes and on certain 
prescribed conditions, of a country or a society. But respect for the state 
should be conditional on its not getting above itself with regard to the 
nation, or people, it in part represents. 

What is clear is that the state, in most Western countries, has inter¬ 
vened both expensively and unsuccessfully in various social areas, under 
the political pressure of simplistic or erroneous notions. 


That other aspect of the state, the Law, is also crucial. Where but in the 
law can the speed limit or the rule of the road be determined? Trivial 

In a Wayward West ♦ 203 

examples indeed, but nor could it be widely denied that there are more 
broadly social spheres where Law must be decisive, though the bound¬ 
aries are matters of legitimate dispute. 

Nowadays, thousands of laws are passed every year. As Giovanni 
Sartori has put it (in his The Theory of Democracy Revisited): 

Laws excessive in number and poor in quality not only discredit the law; 
they also undermine what our ancestors constructed, a relatively stable 
and spontaneous law of the land, common to all, and based on rules of 
general application. 

For, inevitably, 

legislative bodies are generally indifferent to, or even ignorant of, the basic 
forms and consistencies of the legal pattern. They impose their will 
through muddled rules that cannot be applied in general terms; they seek 
sectional advantage in special rules that destroy the nature of law itself. 
And it is not only a matter of the generality of the law. Mass fabrication 
of laws ends by jeopardising the other fundamental requisite of law—cer¬ 
tainty. Certainty does not consist only in a precise wording of laws or in 
their being written down: It is also the long-range certainty that the laws 
will be lasting. Nor is this all. In practice, the legislative conception of 
law accustoms those to whom the norms are addressed to accept any and 
all commands of the State, 

Sartori comments that, pursued too far, this can result in something 
like a corporate state—a sort of velvet fascism (to be seen also in other 
political spheres). 

A major flaw in this torrent of twentieth-century legislation was that 
while in earlier days there was time and opportunity for each law to be 
considered, understood and debated in a truly parliamentary fashion, this 
now became impossible. Then again, before a law was introduced at all, the 
problem it was designed to address had been a matter of public discussion. 

It is also necessary, on the same grounds, that policies—and of course 
treaties—be comprehensible. Tax law in the United States (allegedly on 
the point of reform) is so complicated and so huge in detail that it is 
often not understood by the tax authorities themselves, even though its 
mere existence necessitates a huge employment of staff. It is in any case 
incomprehensible to the ordinary citizen without special advice. This 
should (of course) be illegal. “Ignorance of the law is no excuse’ 1 — 

204 ♦ facing the consequences 

because, in John Seldens words, it is a plea anyone could put forward, 
and one that could seldom be rebutted. Fair enough. But the corollary is 
that laws should be easily understood, and at least reasonably concise. 

Nor should regulations be so complex as to leave the citizen at a disad¬ 
vantage vis-a-vis the regulators. They should also not be so broad as to 
allow the bureaucrat the wide powers of implementation that, in his strong 
position vis-a-vis the citizen, subjects the latter to caprice, and to expense. 

W. B. Yeats pointed out in a speech to the Irish Senate in Free State 
days that a law then being proposed would give excessive power to the 
Minister of Justice concerned: 

The Government does not intend these things to happen, the 
Commission on whose report the Bill was founded did not intend these 
things to happen, but in legislation intention is nothing, and the letter of 
the law everything, and no government has the right, whether to flatter 
fanatics or in mere vagueness of mind, to forge an instrument of tyranny 
and say that it will never be used. 

In fact, a common defect is that laws are interpreted by judges quite 
differently from what the legislators who proposed and passed them had 
explained as their intent. The judiciary is now in effect empowered, in the 
United States, to interpret general articles of the Constitution not as to 
borderline or hitherto uncertain matters, but in massive revision, on the 
one hand, and pettifogging detail on the other. Just as pressing egalitarian¬ 
ism too far ruins any economy, so pressing legalism too far ruins legality. 

Moreover, it is hardly any longer even claimed that the Supreme 
Court merely interprets the law. Its members are openly selected on 
political grounds, and mostly on political grounds that encroach on 
social policy. Judges in the circuits of the U.S. Court of Appeals are 
often far worse examples. 

Here, too, pushing ideas to an abstract level has had destructive 
effects. In America in particular, but also increasingly in Britain, the 
attempt to attain perfect legal equity, on the one hand, and compensa¬ 
tion for troubles from any institution that has funds available on the 
other has been responsible for a deluge of litigation and a mass of judi¬ 
cial decisions based on enforcing claims to equity rather than justice— 
with results that have often been ludicrous (as in the case of the San 
Francisco burglar awarded damages for injuries against the householder 

In a Wayward West ♦ 20J 

through whose glass roof he had fallen) and, even more often, intrusive 
on the legislation already in place. Then again, in the United States, tort 
law, class actions, and general litigation are widely understood to be 
destructive of society. Of education we shall speak later; but one dread¬ 
ful example is the inability of schools to discipline, remove or transfer 
disruptive pupils, one of whom can effectively ruin a class, but whose 
right to remain has in case after case been successfully pursued by anti¬ 
social parents through the delays, intricacies and idiocies of the courts. 

As John Gray has put it, “Complex questions about restraint of liber¬ 
ty,’' which in most democratic countries “are treated as issues in legisla¬ 
tive policy, involving a balance of interests and sometimes a compromise 
of ideals, have come to be treated in the United States, primarily or 
exclusively, as questions of fundamental rights.” And this leads to 
extreme, that is to say absolute, positions being taken, with socially and 
politically fissiparous results. 

As Philip K. Howard argues in his excellent The Death of Common Sense , 
with devastating illustrations, the “process” side of the law is by far the 
most unsound and oppressive part of the whole matter. It has many dis¬ 
advantages. It is absurdly lengthy. And it is absurdly expensive. Magna 
Carta, it may be remembered, required that justice and right should not 
be sold, denied or delayed. Cases, especially in the United States, now 
often take so long that one is reminded of the fictional passage in 
Ernest Bramah’s The Wallet of Kai Lung: “Doubtless the case in question 
can by various means be brought in the end before the Court of Final 
Settlement at Pekin, where it may indeed be judged in the manner you 
assert. But . . . such a process must infallibly consume the wealth of a 
province and the years of an ordinary lifetime.” 

6 . 

The American political and legal system, in its present form, might be 
compared to a rusty bicycle, which only American energy could keep 
going. However, it is argued that the various liberties guaranteed by the 
American Constitution, and interpreted by the American Supreme 
Court, are inherently superior to the liberties enjoyed in Britain. In par¬ 
ticular, the Bill of Rights amendments, and above all the positive legal 
position of Freedom of Speech, are widely praised. 

This is commonly presented in terms of the banality that anyone pro¬ 
posing any limits on it is “in favor of censorship.” But in fact, everyone is 


in favor of some sort of censorship. The trouble has always been, as Dr. 
Johnson wrote, that “the danger of such unbounded liberty, and the dan¬ 
ger of bounding it, have produced a problem in the science of govern¬ 
ment which human understanding seems hitherto unable to solve” 

As ever, we have to choose, and while no one can be trusted with the 
task of censorship, it is equally true that someone will always try to go 
beyond any bounds set by public feeling. The judiciary, at least in the 
United States, has proved unable to cope. (And the intellectual-cum- 
media caste, needless to say, have expended much moral indignation on 
any attempt to limit certain types of free expression, while the electorate 
is too confused, and the political class too cowardly, to oppose this— 
until it burns itself out.) 

• 7. 

It is also urged that the faults seen in current politics in the West can be 
corrected by institutional reforms. Of course, well-thought-out changes 
are always possible. But institutions in themselves are not the central 
matter of consensual politics. As Aristotle wrote: 

There are plenty of instances of a constitution which according to its law 
is not democratic, but which owing to custom and way of upbringing is 
democratic in its workings; there are likewise others which according to 
law incline towards democracy, but by reason of custom and upbringing 
operate more like oligarchies. 

Various constitutional changes are now being proposed in the United 
Kingdom on the grounds that they would make things “more demo¬ 
cratic.” But this is an inadequate criterion. 

For example, there is the question of proportional representation. 
The various possible schemes are well known—though the Israeli com¬ 
plaint that it results in the smallest party dictating policy was matched 
by similar misadventure in Poland. New Zealand has had a parallel mis¬ 
fortune. And the Czech Republic is now working on a return to the 
first-past-the-post system. Other criticisms of such a change are well 
known; more important, though, after the election of 1992, when the 
Conservatives won power with a minority of the votes, polls afterwards 
showed that well over 50 percent of the electorate was content with the 
result. The point here is that British political habits were suited to the 
existing system. No doubt Britons would adapt to the changes suggest- 

In a Wayward West ♦ 207 

ed. The essential is, rather, that it is their habits of mind rather than 
particular institutional forms that really count. 

Similarly, the notion that a republic in Britain would in some way be 
an improvement on constitutional monarchy is found in certain journal¬ 
ism but has no obvious merit except that of being, or appearing to be, 
more “democratic/’ There is little in, for example, West European expe¬ 
rience to suggest that this notion has any substance. (Come to that, 
there is no formal reason against an elective monarchy, as in old Poland. 
Or in the selection or nomination of an heir, as in ancient times or in 
the origin of the present Swedish dynasty.) 

Some of - the constitutional improvements advanced in Britain and 
America have rather the air of Sir Boyle Roche, reported as saying in the 
Irish Parliament of 1775, “In the great cause of civil liberty, Mr. 
Speaker, I should be prepared to sacrifice not only a part of our glori¬ 
ous constitution but, if necessary, the whole of it—in order to preserve 
the remainder.’’ The government is urged to take constitutional action in 
spheres in which, no doubt, it is theoretically competent, but in which 
its intervention in practice is destructive of civic society. The famous 
British parliamentary resolution of 1780, that the powers of the execu¬ 
tive “have increased, are increasing and ought to be diminished,” is once 
again applicable. For as Thomas Sowell has put it: “The grand delusion 
of contemporary liberals [I would say of contemporary etatistes] is that 
they have both the right and the ability to move their fellow creatures 
around like blocks of wood—and that the end results will be no differ¬ 
ent than if people had voluntarily chosen the same actions.” 

The problem in Britain is that in the legislature the party whips’ con¬ 
trol has got so out of hand that reform, properly speaking, seems more 
essential there than in the other spheres so often mentioned. When we 
speak of the executive, we should note that it is not distinguishable 
from the legislative in the same way that it used to be. The original role 
of Parliament was not to churn out legislation but to prevent unwel¬ 
come innovations and usurpations on the part of the executive by codi¬ 
fying (or interpreting in a particular way) the law, as it was supposed 
already to exist in principle. The problem now seems to be more one of 
changed political attitudes than of constitutions. 

8 . 

We can hardly avoid another aspect of human society, the state of the 


Historically, there has been little obvious link between admitted 
artistic achievement and the level of civilization. It is not rare to come 
across people in the West who are unable to believe that other cultures 
can be politically uncivilized or semicivilized if they can be shown to 
produce architecture, opera, ballet, drama and so forth on an impressive 
scale. Even in relations between modern states, we find “cultural 
exchange” sponsored or handled by Westerners who seem to imagine 
that a political amenity is thereby achieved. 

We must distinguish between the various uses of the word “civiliza¬ 
tion." As is often pointed out, China has been “civilized” for millennia, 
but it never established a civic order. Cultures may win our admiration 
for the advanced development of their administrative arrangements, but 
political civilization proper is another matter. A state with a complex 
organization may yet be primitive at the level of articulation. 

As to art, the paintings in the Altamira caves are as accomplished, as 
brilliant, as any that have been produced since. Yet there is a reasonable 
sense in which we may feel that the Stone Age hunters were all the same 
less “civilized” than at least some of their less brilliant successors on the 
same continent. 

It is a common delusion of the generally educated that politicians 
they approve of are more cultured, or more concerned with culture, 
than their alternates. But political culture does not run pari passu with 
“culture” in the aesthetic sense. Abraham Lincoln was incomparably 
more advanced in political civilization than any Romanov or Hapsburg, 
in spite of all the ballet and opera of St. Petersburg and Vienna. Or, if 
we feel that some special exception should be made for the fan not only 
of Artemus Ward but even of the far worse Petroleum V Nasby on the 
grounds that Saginaw County could hardly be expected to produce the 
culture of the old metropolises, we can retort first that Lincoln was 
extremely well read in the political culture, and we can anyhow destroy 
the dubious and shaky special plea by turning to England and noting 
that while the Tsars were at the Bolshoi, British prime ministers 
(Rosebery, for example) would be at the Derby. And it was Nero, was it 
not, rather than Vespasian, who was so keen on the arts: 

I have suggested elsewhere that a curious little volume might be made 
of the poems of Stalin, Castro, Mao and Ho Chi Minh, with illustra¬ 
tions by A. Hitler: and this last name should remind us that the much 
touted slogan “When I hear the word ‘culture,’ I reach for my revolver 

In a Wayward West ♦ 209 

was uttered by a fictional member of the SA, the Nazi radical, egalitari¬ 
an wing crushed in the blood purge of June 1934; and that, on the con¬ 
trary, Hitlerism proper (like Kaiserism) swarmed over Europe to the 
accompaniment of vast claptrap about Knltur and its preservation from 
Anglo-Saxon and Slavonic hordes. If it comes to that, the first truly 
‘'cultured” man in English politics was the revolting John Tiptoft, Earl 
of Worcester, translator of Cicero, patron of humanists, the purity of 
whose Latin brought tears to the eyes of Aeneas Sylvius himself, but 
who is known to political history, according to different criteria, as “the 
Butcher Earl,” owing to his record as impaler of prisoners and slaughter¬ 
er of infants, new phenomena in medieval England. We have a horrid 
example to moderns in the incredible eulogy of him by William Caxton 
after his death as supreme “in science and moral virtue.” 

Nor can much in the way of a rigorous connection be made even 
between the forms of art and the political order. Mortimer Wheeler, 
the great archaeologist, has written that in Athens he 

could not help remarking upon the paradox: that the greatest monument 
of contented logic should survey so disturbed and uneasy a vista. And 
looking again upon the Parthenon, where every stone stands peacefully 
upon another and no stress exercises the mind of the beholder, one could 
not help reflecting, however irrelevantly, upon the paradox of another 
scene: that of Westminster Abbey, where stone fights Gothic stone in 
ceaseless unrest amidst a population whose traditional phlegm is an inter¬ 
national gibe. 

At any rate, it ought to be possible to dismiss the idea that any neces¬ 
sary correlation, individual or collective, exists between artistic culture 
and political maturity—though sometimes such a spread may be posit¬ 
ed, as with Michelets “invention” of the Renaissance, previously seen as 
merely the “rebirth” of learning, as a general revision of minds. 

In any case, all such considerations presuppose, at least in modern 
times, some level of consensus on what art means—which, of course, 
may be from time to time amended by innovative artists. 

To say something about current Western perceptions of the arts is 
thus hardly a digression from our main theme, since it is an area of the 
body politic or body social where strongly held theories and attitudes 
abound, but where, even more to our point, the very concept of Art in 
some minds has itself made a conceptual escape into the “intense inane.” 


The critic Arthur Danto argues that on a modern approach anything 
can be art. It would follow that the concept “art” has lost any meaning. 
Of course, nowadays it is presented as in practice anything an “artist” 
produces for which he or she secures a gallery—or poetry page or what¬ 
ever. Meanwhile, its proponents make a dual, and self-contradictory, 
claim—that anything is art, and also that anything they produce is 
“Art” in the same sense as a painting by Velazquez. The answer is: the 
whole thing is demonstratively, and unanswerably, a deception, or self- 
deception. In part this seems to be due to the cutting-edge addiction 
found also in other fields. And similarly there is a far higher output of 
theorizing, or ideologizing, than even in the recent past. Gibbon noted 
of an earlier period that “A cloud of critics, of compilers, of commen¬ 
tators, darkened the face of learning, and the decline of genius was fol¬ 
lowed by the corruption of taste.” 

It is already some years since the Tate gave the Turner Prize to half a 
mother cow with half her calf, cut horizontally, in a glass case. (A friend 
phoned the Tate to tell them that the supposed mother was in fact a 
heifer—and a good sign was that the unfortunate Tate people laughed 
heartily.) And all this defended by the typically mind-scrubbed ex-finan¬ 
cier in charge, Lord Palumbo, on the grounds that Turner, too, was 
rejected in his time. In fact, Turner was an ARA at twenty-four and a 
full RA at twenty-seven. Later Turner Prizes, some less “transgressive” 
than others, show a similar taste—the latest being smeared with ele¬ 
phant dung. 

This art-quango establishmentarianism came to a head in the sum¬ 
mer of 1998, when the whole drama advisory panel of the Arts 
Council resigned and it was also made clear that no tolerable figure 
would accept the directorship of the Victoria and Albert Museum. 

The drama confrontation was due to an attempt to “streamline” the 
field, under a new chief with political and economic, but no artistic, 
experience. The Victoria and Albert row was similarly due to the muse¬ 
um’s having been run into the ground for years under political or politi¬ 
co-business figures. 

Establishmentarian input into the arts (found in America in slightly 
different form) has a variety of deleterious effects. Both the state and 
the financial institutions concerned teem with dilute attachment to 
fashion. And this attracts, and gives power to, a stratum of officialized 
“artists.” The whole phenomenon is yet another example of the dire 

In a Wayward West 

it l 

effects of corporatism. In Britain there is a whole caste of semisuccess¬ 
ful veterans of one or another section of the political-financial machine 
who have achieved a tedious respectability and seek out, or have sought 
out, culture instead of, or as well as, other fields of endeavor. 

Meanwhile, like the Tate, the Royal Academy has sponsored an exhi¬ 
bition of various entrails, busts in blood and so forth. Objections are 
met with the suggestion that these only come from puritans with no 
feeling for the arts. 

The present writer was brought up on Cubism, Dada, Expressionism, 
Surrealism in the plastic arts, on Kafka and Svevo, Lautreamont, 
Cocteau and all in literature. That is to say that his view of certain sup¬ 
posed artistic attitudes cannot receive the conventional shout-down of 
“fuddy-duddy”; there is even a poem of his in the Penguin Book of 
Surrealist Verse. 

In this perspective, current schools owe their deadness and dreariness 
not simply to an ever-diminishing shock effect in their raw materials, 
but also to those materials remaining largely raw. There is no execution 
unless at a very low and mechanical level. And this is even praised as 
“conceptual.” That is, there is no “artistry” that a bricklayer—or a 
butcher and a glazier—could not do, assuming they could spare time 
from their more useful occupations. Marcel Duchamp, before World 
War I, was claiming that “intellectual expression” in the artists mind 
was more important than the resulting object. This has now become 

Much of what we shall have to say about education also applies here: 
art schools that have ceased to teach perspective, and have often also 
abandoned human models, must surely be an objective criterion of 
decadence. We find in this art world nothing that couldn't have been, 
and probably was, done, if more tongue in cheek, by Dadaists eighty 
years ago. Not a thing: the difference is merely in how solemn the new 
lot are. I would have written “po-faced,” but the last time I did that it 
was printed in the United States as “po'-faced.”The phrase has nothing 
to do with being “poor” in Southern dialect: it refers to a facial expres¬ 
sion like an old-fashioned chamber pot, used of people who talk non¬ 
sense with great solemnity. 

This retro-Dada art activism imposes itself on the intelligentsia 
rather in the vein of Koestlers remark about those thousands of 
“painters and writers and doctors and lawyers and debutantes” spouting 


a diluted version of the Stalinist line in the 1930s. And this time, at 
least in this context, it has entered the Establishment and “marched 
through” its institutions. Quangos and corporations fearful of being 
thought backward or (how dreadful) philistine go along. And here we 
are back with the mental and social problem. 

I have painted a black picture (which sounds like one type of pres¬ 
ent-day artists claim to renown); I have painted a blacker picture than 
the full story merits. But not much. 


That particular aberration, at least in its pervasiveness, is in part a 
peripheral projection of the corporatist tendency, which is more sub¬ 
stantially apparent in the interlocking of government-bureaucratic and 
big capitalist enterprises. 

This is what Vaclav Havel meant when he warned us that Soviet 
totalitarianism was only “an extreme manifestation . . . of a deep-seat¬ 
ed problem that also finds expression in advanced Western society.” For 
“there too, there is a trend toward impersonal power and rule by mega¬ 
machines or Colossi that escape human control.” He added that these 
“juggernauts of impersonal power” whether “large-scale enterprises or 
faceless governments, represent the greatest threat to our present-day 

Thus neither the state bureaucracy nor the trade unions are the only 
“interests” tending to disrupt the social order. Bureaucratism within 
many big companies is itself little more than a striking example of 
Parkinsons Law. But when it comes to the broader picture, we find in 
every country an excessive overlap (often actively corrupt, but anyhow 
an excess) of the private and public high bureaucracies. 

The rise of a corporatist society in the West has been predicted for a 
long time. James Burnham set it forth in his The Managerial Revolution and 
Orwell argued about it. The tendencies that way are obvious. The meas¬ 
ures to be taken against it, and in favor of the maintenance of a demo¬ 
cratic polity and an entrepreneurial economy, should be equally obvious. 

Corporatism as a tendency within “capitalism” was in its origins hard¬ 
ly a cerebral or conscious activity. Yet it, too, has to some degree become 
infected with an Idea. We get Managerialism—a supposedly superior, 
and completely rational, conception of organization, and not only in the 
strictly economic fields but also, by some overspill, in such areas as health 

In a Wayward West ♦ 2/j 

care (usually with deleterious results, as always with premature conceptu¬ 
alization). In France, for example, as Emmanuel Todd put it in his La 
Chute Finale, “The personnel directing large enterprises . . . could rapidly 
become a bouillon of fascist culture (red or ordinary). In France, the 
appearance of pink upper cadres . . . is a very disturbing phenomenon/' 
In the United States Michael Kinsley, as editor of the New Republic , 
described how the phenomenon manifests itself: 

Peruse the annual Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans, and you’ll see 
that a remarkable number got there through the growth in value of radio 
frequency spectrum space handed out for free by the FCC. Many others 
got rich from cable franchises given away by local governments. The scan¬ 
dal isn’t that anyone in particular gets these deals, whether through politi¬ 
cal position, corruption or privileged minority status. The scandal is that 
anyone gets these deals at all. 

Nor is this trend only to be seen on the “left.” Noel Malcolm, in a 
perceptive essay in the Spectator some years ago, already saw that one ten¬ 
dency in the Conservative Party was in favor of a “Partnership” between 
business and government (with Michael Heseltine adducing the example 
of Japan!). This interpenetration of big capital and big bureaucracy has 
indeed flourished. 

In addition, we notoriously find many of the big employers with 
huge salaries lacking humanity to their employees. The older notion that 
the workers were an investment and a responsibility has weakened. In 
the longer run, moreover, the corporatist trend is compatible with excess 
state spending. And a section of the public comes to accept the new 
order in return for bureaucratic jobs, or government subsidies. Another 
sign of this corporatist relationship with the state in America is that big 
corporations are unwilling to oppose bureaucratic Interpretations of 
laws made by politicians under pressure from activist groups. This is in 
part because they feel vulnerable to boycotts, even if by comparatively 
few customers, and in part because the big firms can afford to pay what 
amounts to blackmail (as in the ridiculous Texaco case). Thus the small¬ 
er firms, which cannot afford such indulgences, are then left without 
anything like a “capitalist” defense. 

Nor are these the only reasons why we are very probably going to see, 
sooner or later, a political realignment. Both a new left and a new right, 


for different reasons rejecting the established views, seem to be emerg¬ 
ing, in what will eventually be a bloodless (one hopes) revolution to 
restore the civic order. 

Meanwhile, many serious problems have simply not been solved, 
regardless of money or goodwill. We have not here argued over policies 
on many major issues. For example, “poverty" in the Western coun¬ 
tries—which is not merely a matter of the poor in the earlier sense 
“but," as Geoffrey Wheatcroft has written, “a new form of relative 
poverty, of hopelessness and resentment, building up its own rage and 
bitterness, not because of the failure of free enterprise, but because of 
its very success, from which a minority are excluded." 

For it is the exclusion more than the poverty, or even the relative 
poverty, as such, that is the crux. The new poor include those formerly 
employed in now obsolete or obsolescent industry, together with the 
younger ghettoized generation. That is, a very grave and harsh social 
wrenching has taken place—the concern of state and society as a whole. 
And even on a nonhumanitarian view, these millions in the West are vot¬ 
ers the democratic governments and parties must take account of. And, 
as in the former Eastern Bloc, they are the potential and actual support¬ 
ers of extremist parties. Tony Judt has pointed out that in France the 
groundswell for the National Front in the industrial areas is from for¬ 
mer Communist voters: that is, the radical and alienated proletariat. 

Perhaps populist, racist nationalism no longer has, or needs, an ideol¬ 
ogy like fascism or national socialism. The newer nationalist extremism 
may not have the staying power of the old ideologies and their parties. 
But Le Pen and Milosevic are trouble enough even if they are not set to 
be another almost unstoppable wave of the future. 

10 . 

There is much more to be said about the failings of the West, both real 
and conceptual. This partial sketch may nevertheless indicate something 
of the nature of, and distinction between, these problems. 



“The Answer Is Education 


I t has often been said that the “answer'’ to most problems is “educa¬ 

But it is obvious that a high level of education in a general sense has 
often failed to protect twentieth-century minds from homicidal, or suicidal, 
aberrations. As we have seen, these have often been generated by men of 
high educational standing. And it has often been in colleges and universities 
that the bad seeds first bore fruit. Can anything more specific be urged? 

Current instruction in the experiences and actualities of human soci¬ 
ety is, broadly speaking, not reassuring. But this is only part of a greater 
problem. The educational crux seems to be in saving minds, especially 
developing minds, from the habits of vogue or formula. That is to say, 
all teaching should actively encourage the critical treatment of all histor¬ 
ical, social, literary and other doctrine in the humanities. This does not 
sound like much of what passes for teaching these days, which often 
implicitly discourages critical thought and explicitly conspires to incul¬ 
cate the uncritical fashions of the moment. 

It might be added that these, though often effectively political in a 
narrow sense, are not always so. There are formulae that are far from 
committing their proponents to political action or belief but neverthe¬ 
less—like all formulae—often have a stultifying effect, and that, almost 
as much as their political counterparts, form “schools” of like-minded 
academics, assembling round parties and governments and taking over 
university departments in the interests of the supposed higher or more 
proven truths. 

About education as the transmission of knowledge there is presum¬ 
ably no serious dispute. About education as a way of improving or exer- 


cising the mental capacity of those receiving it, there should hardly be 
much argument. No particular scheme of reform is advanced here. 
There are a number of these, but the main problem seems to be how to 
get the public, and the political, and the academic, minds to begin to 
accept the obvious (though not therefore readily digestible) need for 
fundamental rethinking. 

A recent exchange of educational opinions had the “conservatives” 
urging that it was necessary to learn factual information, the “progres¬ 
sives” that it was necessary to encourage thought. But of course, data 
without thought are worthless, and so is thought without data. To stress 
the need for even a framework such as the dates of past events is not a 
mere boring formalism. To think so would be like objecting to a geogra¬ 
pher needing a knowledge of latitude and longitude on the grounds that 
these are no more than tedious "distractions from the real seas and conti¬ 
nents. On the contrary, they help deploy the world for our minds to 
grasp. There should be nothing “left” or “right” in such a view. It would 
have been shared by Burke, Mill and Marx. As a result of ignoring it, a 
high proportion of the American population is now illiterate or semilit¬ 
erate, not in any rhetorical sense but by the simplest tests. 

2 . 

I imagine it is now almost everywhere agreed that stronger class disci¬ 
pline, more qualified teachers and better textbooks are minimal require¬ 
ments for a revival of American, and to a large degree British, primary 
and secondary education. All this depends greatly on parental and public 
consciousness. But the attitudes—and even the curricula—of the school 
systems are in their turn to a large degree dependent on the cultural 
assumptions found in the universities. This is true even in the obvious 
sense that recommended curricula on (for example) high school history 
in the United States are set by commissions of “higher education'’ aca¬ 
demics; and ideas about “modern” mathematics and the nonphonic 
teaching of reading derive from the seething pot of ideas emerging from 
an academic intelligentsia. 

At any rate, we used to expect broad and comprehensive general edu¬ 
cation before going on to the special learning to be found, or sought, at 

The mere fact that a high proportion of freshmen at the University of 
California have to take “remedial English” is commentary enough on the 

"The Answer Is Education” 


high school system. But it also means that many of the young entry, even 
when not quite so obviously disqualified, are not suitable for academic 
work. They have not had, or have not absorbed, the general education 
that would enable them to pass on to a level of academic specialization. 
What proportion of entrants this is can hardly be stated with any sort of 
exactness. But it is too many. Numbers “drop out,” and a good propor¬ 
tion of the remainder are instructed, or largely misinstructed, in subjects 
in which the material is either tenuous or obvious. 

We often see complaints about the drain on the economy of sup¬ 
porting the no longer “productive” older section of the population. 
But a considerable part of the younger section of the population, 
from eighteen to twenty-two, or often for years longer, is equally 

Even from the universities, at best, many emerge, as Churchill said of 
Hitler, “loosely educated.” So, much of the population is uneducated, 
and much of the remainder is miseducated—which in modern circum¬ 
stances may be worse. The humanities, in their university context, have 
to a considerable degree come under the influence of Ideas disconnect¬ 
ed from education in the sense of extending our knowledge and improv¬ 
ing our judgment. That is, we often see the semblance rather than the 
substance of education. 

3 . 

The century's disasters have been due in a major way to ignorance of, or 
distortion of, history. Thomas Jefferson held that the basic education of 
the citizens of a democracy should be “chiefly historical.” His reasoning 
was that history, “by apprising them of the past, will enable them to 
judge of the future; it will avail them of the experience of other times 
and other nations; it will qualify them as judges of the actions and 
designs of men.” 

Nowadays, too, the more that people are made properly aware of 
what happened in this century, and in previous centuries, the more likely 
they are to appraise present-day prospects in a sensible manner. 

However, rather than cover, or even sketch, these problems, we may 
note a revealing example. When a history syllabus for fifteen-year-olds 
in high school, produced under official auspices by a commission of 
academic historians, is censured by a 99-to-I vote of the U.S. Senate 
(the single vote against was on the grounds that the censure was not 


tough enough), we are clearly in trouble. A respectable academic com¬ 
mission exhibited a slant unacceptable even to the most liberal of the 
broader world. It was rightly pointed out that only certain sections of 
the report were objectionable (and that a revised version then pro¬ 
duced—though the report had been presented as final—was an 
improvement). But this partial defense was inadequate. 

Its observed fault was that it misrepresented the West. In it, “robber 
baron” American capitalists of a century ago are antisocial. Slave-and- 
gold-trading African rulers represent glorious cultures. Etc. That is, the 
bad, or supposedly bad, sides of American history w T ere stressed by stan¬ 
dards not used of others. Apart from the prejudicial aspect, this means 
that the coverage of the West—and of everywhere else—was inadequate 
in terms of breadth. 

The commissions avowed, and on the face of it respectable, aim was to 
escape the constraints of too domestic a curriculum by covering the rest 
of the world. But it is impossible, especially at the school age to which the 
program is addressed, to give any but the roughest sketch of the variegat¬ 
ed histories of these cultures, even if not consciously distorted. A few 
selected areas scattered the world over cannot serve, though this was the 
result. From whatever point of view, a school-level world history could 
only be even minimally adequate on a much broader basis, as with H. G. 
Wells s, or even Hendrik Van Loons. It is impossible, particularly at such 
an age, to absorb more than a clear and limited amount of history. 

Then students cannot begin to approach the history of other cul¬ 
tures if they do not have a reasonable grasp of that of their own cul¬ 
ture—even a perverted, Marxist one is better than a handful of 
snapshots. Above all, there should be no blurring the fact that, as we 
have said, whatever the accomplishments and triumphs of other cul¬ 
tures, or civilizations, they lacked the distinctive and decisive character¬ 
istics of the Western culture—the rule of law, freedom of speech, 
political liberty. 

I have found it easy enough to get this across to students initially 
unwilling to accept it. 

“All cultures should be treated equally?” 


“Then it is a good thing to be able to put forward the idea that they 
should be treated equally?” 


“The Answer Is Education” 


‘‘Then a culture which allows this is, at least to that degree, superior to 

one that doesn't?” 

“I see what you mean. . . ” 

But even if not represented as a superiority, it is a point that should 
be made available to the student or schoolchild. 


This difference in cultural approaches has often been deplored. The 
organ of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic 
Studies (of which I am a member) in Brezhnevian times published an 
article by a New York academic criticizing American correspondents in 
Moscow for looking at things from an American point of view and 
offering advice, and even therapy, to combat this vice. 

But of course, everyone looks at things in some sense from the point 
of view of his own culture. The supranational, culturally neuter journal¬ 
ist or academic does not exist. Even American Stalinists looked at the 
USSR from an American point of view. They did not think (or at any 
rate did not say) hurrah for the terrorist dictator; they said, look at the 
Lincoln of today. 

There are special difficulties, of course, in Soviet history, but the writ¬ 
ing of history in general is in an unfortunate state. We find huge pop 
books with titles like My Hundred Hours with Kennedy. Then there are publi¬ 
cations that are little more than mere arrays of theoreticized data, histori¬ 
ography (if that) rather than history. Unfortunately, particularly in the latter 
instance, one cannot tell what they are attempting to convey since one puts 
them down after a couple of pages, never to be touched again. However, 
they claim above all to have achieved objectivity through methodology. 

But prejudices do not disappear because one is resorting to such 
“methodology”; they are merely disguised. It is not a question of opinions. 
Opinions, even strong ones, are compatible with the most conscientious 
treatment of the facts, as historians of any sense have long known. Gibbon 
wrote of the fanatical Jansenist Sebastien Le Nain deTillemont that he was 
nevertheless completely “scrupulous” about evidence. G. M. Trevelyan saw 
that not “dispassionateness” but “good faith” was the real crux. 


A surprising number of midlife academics seem to have been trained in, 
or selected for, susceptibility to dogma. And most of these show one 


especial characteristic: an inability to believe that not everyone is driven 
by power lust, and that in the West those who are are held under some 
measure of control; that not everyone who wants more income is driven 
by insatiable greed, and that in the West those who are are as far as pos¬ 
sible held in check by the legal, social and moral order. 

These Marxist or semi-Marxist attitudes remind one that, if not so 
much in the United States and Britain, academe is a seedbed not merely 
of theory that is erroneous but also of theory that is positively danger¬ 
ous. Peru's “Shining Path," perhaps the most vicious guerrilla movement 
in the world, was headed and founded by professors and mainly staffed 
by students. In Italy the Red Brigades drew most of their members from 
universities—especially from the so-called University of Trento, which 
consisted almost solely of a sociology department. 

More generally, as John Maynard Keynes said even in his day, 
“Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their 
frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back.” Marxism 
proper has indeed largely given way either to simplistic terrorism or to a 
neo-Marxist current. As to the latter, it would seem that Marxism- 
Leninism is no longer in the realm of intellectual debate. Like creation¬ 
ism, it posited an immanent force in history. Like phrenology and 
Baconianism, it relied on complex calculation and analysis. Like astrolo¬ 
gy, it will persist in some minds—though in its pure form it looks as 
though it may soon only be found, like the spotted owl, in a few sanctu¬ 
aries on the American Pacific Coast. 

But the collapse of its old intellectual structure has also left a sort of 
residual sludge. Its main characteristic is a sub-Marxist detection, in 
every aspect of life and art and language, of mechanisms for safeguard¬ 
ing the existing order and suppressing a wide variety of social and other 
categories. When, under this rubric, logic and coherent thought are 
attacked as Eurocentric or androcentric, and the idea of good literature 
as an elitist power play, we must in all fairness put in a plea for the older 
Marxist tradition. Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, even Gramsci and Lukacs, all 
understood that Aeschylus or Dante transcended any class context, that 
rational thought is possible, and so on. (And Marx himself—when not 
doing his imitation of an economist—had something of a style.) They 
may have been scholastics and fanatics and pseudoscientists, but they 
had not sunk into what Lenin, in a slightly different context, called “An 
Infantile Disorder”—though, coming at the end rather than the begin- 

“The Answer Is Education” ♦ ill 

ning of the Communist era, the present excesses might be better called 
“A Senile Disorder.” 

But though Marx and Lenin would have recoiled in distaste from 
their stepgrandchildren or step-great-grandchildren, two of their basic 
principles have been transmitted unchanged. First, that power is every¬ 
body's prime, even exclusive, concern. Second, that in every transaction 
there is a winner and a loser: that it is a zero-sum game, and that the 
idea of both sides or classes benefiting is impossible. 

Such abuses tend to remove sound historical minds from political 
and general history. On the other side of the coin, academics of the 
middle generation whose political and general judgment was negligible 
were able to build reputations as experts by minor studies and then be 
consulted as to broader matters in which they had little competence, 
though much to say. 

6 . 

One has only to look at the state of English departments at many uni¬ 
versities to feel that a mental blight has descended, carrying, separately or 
blended together, the pretentiously meaningless and the politically 
vicious. As to the former, certain French theorists have a tradition of 
enjoying paradox, as is indeed understandable. When I was an eighteen- 
year-old student at a French university, this was taken for granted, even 
though one sometimes saw pushed to excessive, and obsessive, lengths 
what Bernard Shaw would have made the theme of passing dialogue, 
Swift a tongue-in-cheek tour de force. All the same, there was always an 
element of play. When exported to America and Britain, this saving 
residue disappears. At a recent seminar on the much resented influx of 
certain American movies in France, my old friend Alain Besangon 
remarked that a hundred soft-porn products of Flollywood did less 
harm in his country than a single French philosopher had done in the 
United States. 

What is to our purpose is that this Idea (if such it can be called) 
rejects not only any specific value or meaning to works of literature but 
also any reality at all. This was, of course, seen in the famous 1996 hoax 
by physicist Alan Sokal, who had a spoof paper proving that physical 
“reality,” no less than social “reality” is at bottom a social and linguistic 
“construct” accepted by, and published in, a major sociological journal. 
Again, some “students” at Williams College spoke of the Flolocaust in 


terms of its not having occurred at all, but having ‘'purchase, compared 
with the currency derived from other events,” or, even if it did not hap¬ 
pen, of its being “a perfectly reasonable conceptual hallucination.” 

The notion of a text and a subtext, or several subtexts, is a geologi¬ 
cal type of metaphor. At this sort of level, a work of literature might 
better be thought of as a large crystalline formation, within which one 
can see, at the same time, a corporate whole of visual variety—and 
then by careful squinting notice at first unrecognized detail, some of it 
contributing further to the whole, some of it irrelevant or misappre¬ 
hended. And, of course, this, too, is merely a metaphor, though a less 
simplistic one. 

At any rate, one thing obvious to adults is that, insofar as there is 
anything in the point that the effect of a poem or novel depends not 
only on the writers intention but also on the readers reception of it, it 
is so obvious as not to be worth saying; but that to make too much of it 
is to fall from the obvious into the inane. 

In fact, to the degree that such things as the theses of deconstruc¬ 
tionists and their heirs are not absurd, they are banal. The distinguished 
Anglo-Australian critic Clive James some years ago publicly described 
“deconstructionism” as nonsense without advancing any detailed argu¬ 
ments against it. When its proponents protested that he couldn’t, he 
replied that, yes, he could. Such a position, on the face of it, is unfair. 
But that is to be formal. Clearly there are theories, even complex ones, 
so absurd as not to merit more than an abrupt dismissal. For example, 
pyramidology, which holds with a considerable accumulation of detail 
and concept that the future of humanity can be foreseen by a correct 
analysis of the measurements of the Giza pyramids. Or, for the last 
three centuries at least, astrology, again appearing in an impressive appa¬ 
ratus of mathematics. Nor need anyone be buffaloed by the fact that 
members of, or at least spokesmen for, such sects are often well 
informed as to details. Baconians are probably more “knowledgeable” 
about Shakespeare than you or I. 

The present writer has had direct experience of how a set of irrele¬ 
vant facts may be put together to support an absurd theory. My 
“Christian Symbolism in Lucky Jim” published originally in the Critical 
Quarterly, assembled dozens of extracts, character names and so on 
from the Amis novel, giving impressive, though spurious, credibility to 
the notion suggested in its title. This was so obviously fatuous that 1 

“The Answer Is Education” ♦ 223 

hardly bothered to conceal its spoof character, giving reference to such 
unlikely books as The Phallus Theme in Early Amis. However, the journal 
had to print a note in its next issue disavowing serious intent because it 
had received numbers of letters from English teachers, students and so 
on taking it at face value (it still turned up years later in German jour¬ 
nals). That is to say there were, and are, academic minds ready to treat 
any alleged pattern as credible. 

More generally, we find professional unwillingness to be seen to criti¬ 
cize colleagues in the guild. Deconstruction-type thought, in close 
alliance with various sexual, social and racial attitudes, not only affects 
the academic establishment but also recruits new devotees. The present 
writer has actually spent a few days with the annual (American) 
Modern Language Association conference, not as a delegate but as a 
guest of a friend who was such a delegate. The mere experience, the 
faces of the thirty-year-olds who made up the majority of those attend¬ 
ing, gave one a strong feeling that they knew only too well that they 
were caught up in something worthless or harmful, scuttling about like 
beetles in some Sartrean hell. They were, of course, doing what was nec¬ 
essary to secure employment. 

It will hardly be denied that negative or harmful solidarities exist; 
that these are sometimes connected with interests; and that this is often 
partly or wholly obscured in the consciousness of those participants. 
Fads and fashions rise and subside in the fields of literary, social and 
political study. They have two destructive features: first, they are narrow, 
reductive, dogmatic; second, their adepts form sects and work together, 
even if not in a technically conspiratorial w T ay, to take over or at least 
permeate major university departments—it is estimated that around 25 
to 30 percent of such a department is enough to give effective control 
of its future recruitment. 

So we find a closed-shop type of professional committment. The 
sort of pseudoscholarship in the Russian area, of which examples are 
given in Chapter VII, could only prosper, or even survive, in an 
unhealthy academic atmosphere. A recent and reasonably distinguished 
president of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic 
Studies stated in a formal message that the debate on who had been 
right and who had been wrong about the fall of the Soviet Union 
should not be pursued, as it was “divisive” of the profession. 

Such academic aberrations have over recent generations led to what 

224 ♦ facing the consequences 

can only he called intellectually scandalous results. Rather than welcome 
new approaches in anthropology, (another field with a higher charge of 
certainty than of knowledge), the professional associations tried to sup¬ 
press the destructive, but eventually vindicated, critique of Margaret 
Meads work; and tried to censure a colleague who had written about 
aggression in a tribe in Venezuela—indeed voted overwhelmingly to ban 
such research into that field. 

Then, there are always academics or intellectuals whose temporary 
public reclame far outmatches the respect with which they and their opin¬ 
ions are held by what one might call responsible adults in their field. Yet 
the system has already to some degree extended from a miseducated 
academe into a badly educated citizenry. 

These ephemeral orthodoxies come and go. The past century and a 
half has seen dozens of such claims, in psychology, anthropology, histo¬ 
ry, politics. They have always been an obstacle to serious work. 


And these days, jargon has to a large degree taken over in all the human¬ 
ities. Indeed, one often finds “journalistic” used as a term of abuse in 
this milieu: it means written with a view to being read. Moreover, this 
academic jargoneering corrupts ordinary speech. As John Lukacs has 
put it, “Our everyday language has become encumbered, Germanic, arti¬ 
ficial, bureaucratic, inorganic. It may not be exaggerated to say that by 
now American writers face but two alternatives: write English, or write 

But the whole point of the latter dialect is to imply a mental supe¬ 
riority as against the ruck. And to master it, even fairly crudely, 
requires a certain mental effort, and a certain mental status. The theo¬ 
ries and approaches thus presented are complex, and deploying them 
is often a complicated process, thus giving the illusion that it is a use¬ 
ful one. 

8 . 

“The young,” the objects of education, are not in themselves better or 
worse than any other age group. They are rawer, more easily imprintable, 
more susceptible to inadequately informed "idealism.” We no longer 
find, at least to the same extent, the obsequiousness towards the young 
which flourished a few decades ago. But uncritical emotion over youth s 

“The Answer Is Educatton” ♦ iij 

idealism is still heard, with supposedly more mature voices encouraging 
their juniors to indulge. 

The young and “ardent” are, in fact, the usual storm troops of any 
Idea. Giovinezza! Giovinezza! (Youth! Youth!) was the anthem of Italian 
Fascism. It was the Hitlerjngend leader, Baldur von Schirach, who asserted, 
“In a higher sense, the young are always right.” And, as we have noted, 
the Nazis took over the German student organization before they mas¬ 
tered the German state. But the young are precisely those who, even in a 
civic society, have little or no experience of real politics. As Aristotle 
remarked in the Ethics: 

Every man is a good judge of what he understands; in special subjects the 
specialist, over the whole field of knowledge the man of general culture. 
This is the reason why political science is not a proper study for the 
young. The young man is not versed in the practical business of life from 
which politics draws its premises and its data. 

The cult of young idealism becomes unfortunate above all when the 
young are encouraged to take their own primitive enthusiasms as generally 
true, without the normal abrasion of adult comment. Often at the age of 
eighteen or twenty, a student meets a glittering general Idea and, far from 
feeling any responsibility to submit it to serious questioning, hencefor¬ 
ward follows it like a duckling imprinted with its mother. Is this adequate¬ 
ly discouraged? The classic set piece of young idealism is Turgenevs: 

To you who desire to cross this threshold, do you know what awaits you? 

I know, replied the girl. 

Cold, hunger, abhorrence, derision, contempt, abuse, prison, disease 
and death! 

I know, I am ready, I shall endure all blows. 

Not from enemies alone, but also from relatives, from friends. 

Yes, even from them . . . 

Are you ready even to commit a crime? 

I am ready for crime, too. 

Do you know that you may be disillusioned in that which you believe, 
that you may discover that you were mistaken, that you ruined your young 
life in vain? 

I know that, too. 



The girl crossed the threshold, and a heavy curtain fell behind hen 
Fool! said someone, gnashing his teeth. 

Saint! someone uttered in reply. 

There are other words besides “saint” and “fool” which may be 
thought to apply to someone willing to commit crimes for an opinion 
he or she feels may turn out to be untenable after all. At any rate, to feel 
unstinted, or barely stinted, admiration for such a stance is surely to 
become an accomplice. 

Once converted and incorporated into a bold brotherhood, such 
young people find themselves committed. I knew Georgi Markov, the 
Bulgarian writer later murdered in London by a Communist agent. A 
boy when the Communists took over his country, he had become one of 
the regime s most favored authors. His defection to the West sprang in 
part from his being commissioned to write a play about Bulgarian 
Communist partisans during World War II. He was given access to the 
files of those captured and shot by the then anti-Communist regime. 
They had been allowed to write last letters. He was expecting these 
(mostly by very young men) to be declarations of Party solidarity and 
defiance. Instead he found that most of them were letters to their par¬ 
ents regretting that they had failed to take their advice and asking for¬ 
giveness for thus harming them. 

But this lack of experience applies in the West as well. It means that 
every five or ten years we get a new lot of enthusiasts to whom the real 
lessons of earlier action by the anti-Western totalitarianisms have never 
penetrated. The plausible fellow with the good line of talk may have the 
same name as the man who took in Daddy, but hes reformed, or he is 
only a relative, and anyway his offer to sell us the Holland Tunnel is quite 
a different proposition from that old deal about the Brooklyn Bridge. 

In part this is because of a common enough fallacy: that if students 
are thought to be critical of the prevailing attitudes of their country or 
family, they have made an advance. This is true onlv if they are able to, 
and encouraged to, criticize the “new” idea with equal care and skepti¬ 
cism. As W. H. Auden wrote: 

Yours, you say, were parents to avoid. Avoid then if you please. 

Do reverse on each occasion till you catch the same disease. 

That the “revolutionary” young are thus “reacting” against their par- 

“The Answer Is Education” ♦ 227 

ents may sometimes be true. It was not the impression formed by 
Dostoevsky or Turgenev about the nihilist young of the nineteenth 
century, whose parents were usually “progressive.” Again, Edward 
Shils, who as Dean did much to save the University of Chicago from 
the worst of the student excesses of the 1960s by granting the few 
“demands” which made sense and expelling the leaders of disruption, 
told me that when the parents of these came to beg (or demand) par¬ 
dons, they almost always held a diluted version of their offsprings 

The idealism (for want of a better word) of the young may be a 
powerful source of political or social energy. However, as we saw in the 
Communist and National Socialist cases, it can be misapplied. And 
nowadays in the West, as we have noted, it often seems harnessed to 
(say) ecological notions like recycling, of doubtful value even in that 
context—and sometimes instilled by well-meaning but ideologically 
imprinted teachers. 

Not that one wants to be too sentimental about young idealism even 
at this level. A well-known American science fiction writer, with strong 
views on pollution, was addressing a large audience of students in a 
Western town some years ago. To loud applause, he said that every indi¬ 
vidual could help. (Yes! Hurrah! Hurrah!) So all of you stand and tear 
up your drivers licenses. (Stunned silence.) 

One might think that young enthusiasts would take a serious look at 
the fact that as they become older, people just like themselves become 
ex-enthusiasts. The superficial ploys of blaming this on a seepage of 
idealism, the wear and tear of aging, corruption by the various bad ele¬ 
ments of society, compromise with convention, might sound pretty sim¬ 
plistic even to a mind enchanted by its own idealism. They might take 
into consideration that, as the seventeenth-century sage Sir Thomas 
Browne put it, “We do but learn what our better advanced judgement 
will unlearn tomorrow.” 

Indeed, the young idealists might also take into consideration the 
evolution of their elders who remain unbourgeoisified. For these so 
often transfer their early enthusiasm into quite different channels— 
Yoga or calisthenics—while those who remain often become appa¬ 
ratchiks of tedious and moribund organizations (even Gus Hall was 
young once). 

None of this is to deny the virtues of youth, though it does exempli- 


fy the contradictions, often learned too late, between ideas and real life. 
Nor is it necessarily the case that those of them who embrace more or 
less simplistic or utopian notions invariably forfeit their ability to profit 
from a cultural, critical and informed education. But we can hope for a 
reflux from the juvenile dead end of our culture. 


Not all young, or old, people are susceptible to education. The Emperor 
Marcus Aurelius, Gibbon tells us, had this trouble with his son and suc¬ 
cessor, Commodus: 

Nothing . . . was neglected by the anxious father, and by the men of 
learning and virtue he summoned to his assistance, to expand the narrow 
mind of young Commodus . . . but the power of instruction is seldom 
of much efficacy, except in those happy dispositions where it is almost 
superfluous. The influence of a polite age, and the labour of an attentive 
education, had never been able to infuse into his rude and brutish mind 
the least tincture of learning. . . . Commodus, from his earlier infancy, 
discovered an aversion to whatever was rational or liberal. The masters of 
every branch of learning, whom Marcus provided for his son, were heard 
with inattention and disgust. 

That is to say, he was forced by family circumstances into a world to 
which he felt no attachment or inclination. 

This is, perhaps, an exotic example. Still, young people are even now 
pressed by family expectations into a sphere that is alien to their person¬ 
alities. All this is only to say that some, like Commodus, are more or 
less uneducable. Others have had a good education by the time they are 
eighteen, or even younger, but have neither the desire nor the bent for 
“higher” education. 

For people can be educated, cultured and so forth without having 
been to university at all—as with dozens from Benjamin Franklin to 
Winston Churchill, from Shakespeare to Einstein, to say nothing of 
the great women writers of the nineteenth century. Nor is this only a 
matter of genius. Even erudition is possible outside academe, a point 
illustrated perfectly by Gibbon himself, the greatest of historians, 
who did indeed attend Oxford briefly when fifteen years old, from 
which (as he tells us) he got nothing. What all of them had was, in 

“The Answer Is Education” ♦ 229 

the first place, reading. We all know dozens of people, especially from 
an older generation, who are as much at home in these worlds— 
except in special fields—as their Bachelored and Mastered and 
Doctored acquaintances. 

No doubt these were naturally inclined that way, or else brought up 
in circumstances where it was taken for granted. And, of course, they 
must have had some sort of preuniversity education that puts them 
above many university entrants, or exiters, these days. I think of such 
people (at random) as Julian Symons, or Roy Fuller, or V S. Pritchett, 
or Iain Hamilton, the editor of the London Spectator (who left school at 
sixteen to work in a clothes shop), and of other major figures in litera¬ 
ture and journalism. 

All this is relevant, too, to the proliferation of business and manage¬ 
ment studies by which, in principle at least, a new business class emerges 
trained in all the expertises but deficient in education proper. When 
Leland Stanford, himself an outstandingly successful businessman, 
founded the university that bears his son’s name, he commented that the 
humanities (then) were important “for the enlargement of the mind 
and for business capacity. I think I have noticed that technically educat¬ 
ed boys do not make the best businessmen. The imagination needs to be 
cultivated and developed to ensure success in life/’ 

10 . 

It has been argued, frequently, that a modern country, to be successful, 
needs a high proportion of educated inhabitants. A figure of one third 
of the young is often given in Britain. There is thus governmental pres¬ 
sure to produce the result. And with it comes societal pressure, and a 
new form of snobbery. 

But the “modernity” point applies only to engineering, the hard sci¬ 
ences and so on, on the one hand, and training in vocational skills on 
the other—and even among these, quantity should not automatically be 
taken as quality. 

A number of British writers on education, in both “conservative” 
and “liberal” journals, now take the view that there is a great excess of 
university graduates. Melanie Phillips, writing in the liberal London 
Observer (26 May 1996), pointed out that the inflation of universities 
has both devalued and diluted the vocational training that is now sup¬ 
posedly incorporated into them. She makes the devastating point that 


Switzerland—a "successful” country by most criteria—has only about 
12 percent of its young at universities, the others at vocational training. 
In Britain, she writes, 

The expansion of the university has meant degrees are increasingly being 
substituted for essential craft or skills training on the job. Instead of high 
quality training in how to do or make things, young people are being fun¬ 
nelled towards qualifications which mask their vocational deficiencies by 
increased social status. . . . Attempting to fuse the vocational and the aca¬ 
demic is a continuation of the doomed attempt to use education to rid 
Britain of its class divisions. It has little to do with equipping young peo¬ 
ple or the country with what is needed. It damages both academic and 
vocational standards by diluting the one and devaluing the other. Academic 
courses become more and more skills-based and vocational, losing sight of 
the need to ring-fence a core of knowledge acquired for its own sake. At 
the same time, the drive for “professionalisation" means that the craft base 
is replaced by abstract theorising. 

And, she adds, a great deal of what was genuinely academic is being 
degraded into pseudosubjects. 


Even apart from Marxism, the study of human society over much of 
this century was heavily distorted in the social, as against the human, 
direction. Durkheim held that no biological or psychological explana¬ 
tion of social behavior should be admitted if a sociological one was 
available—and this was accepted by most of the leadership of aca¬ 
demic social science. Those who urged (like the liberal Lionel Tiger), 
from the empirical evidence, that certain human social traits seemed 
universal regardless of the particular social order, were long attacked 
as suggesting that minds are not all identical apart from social condi¬ 
tioning; and potentially that men and women act differently in the 
social sphere. 

As the veteran Moscow sociologist Vladimir Kantorovich was able 
to write even in Soviet times, "Social sciences are not equipped to deal 
with individual behaviour." In an age of obsessed and erratic despots 
with major powers of decision, this is a fatal defect. The totalitarian 
state was, in one aspect, precisely the Archimedean lever with which a 
single man, or a small group, could "move the world." Again, more 

“The Answer Is Education 

* * 3 ' 


broadly, Montaigne wrote of human actions: “They commonly con¬ 
tradict each other so strongly/’ It has been pointed out of one of the 
recent social mathematizations—“risk aversion’’ theory—that it can¬ 
not account for the fact that the same people both gamble and insure 

From the point of view of our subject here, this is not so much a 
matter of the philosophical limitations of the method, of the still per¬ 
sisting failure to refute Hume’s views on cause and effect, or some of 
Kant’s antinomies of pure reason. In the sphere of human activity, the 
objections are more immediate. In the first place, that the supposed 
purely rational and purely critical approach is a delusion; because all 
minds in fact start from, or include, some irrational elements and pref¬ 
erences. Second, that absolute critical dissection of human action and 
thought, if taken as a form of truth, leaves nothing but an infinite reces¬ 
sion, and in political terms leads to what nineteenth-century Russians 
rightly called “nihilism’’—the “nothing,’’ however, being populated by 
primitive but unrecognized preconceptions. Third, in part because we 
have no science of psychology (as against a mixed bag of pragmatics), 
many important human activities have not proved amenable to more 
than a partial—and often superficial—analysis. 

12 . 

The most damaging element in the study of humanity is the view that it 
can be done with the rigor of the true sciences. 

This seems to be due to a confusion about the word “science,” which 
in English carries the connotation of definable data, precise measure¬ 
ment and controlled experiment. Except at the cost of vast suffering, 
none of these is to be found in human studies, which are nevertheless 
subject to what Albert O. Hirschman wittily calls “physics envy.” 

In principle, the scientific approach is to advance a general theory 
with a view to testing it against every possible sort of evidence that 
might tell against it. In practice, even in the hard sciences, there are 
reservations to be made. Even good scientists who have risen right to 
the top of their profession become attached to, and partisan about, the 
theory they have created or helped create, and obstinate in defending it. 
Second, their students and acolytes at a lower level, while in a general 
sense “intelligent,” are inclined to an acceptance of the last generation’s 
breakthrough and novelty, and treat them as a barely criticizable ortho- 


doxy. This is particularly true when academic advancement becomes 
dependent on validating the last theory. 

It may be argued that the sciences have progressed through erroneous 
but fruitful theory, as with phlogiston and so on. Such errors, and the 
efforts necessary to correct them, did not affect questions of war and 
peace, of human survival or extinction, nor, unless in the most indirect 
way, those of property and poverty, of liberty and serfdom. 

In the harder sciences, the experimental data eventually destroy falla¬ 
cious general theory. In the humanities, most data are often hard to 
come by, or difficult to establish, or in any case lack definability. One 
might think that in such circumstances academic circles in the humani¬ 
ties would be particularly careful to avoid vaguely based general theories. 

In any case, such approaches by supposed scientists in the human 
field have two aspects. First, devising ways to avoid thought themselves; 
and, second, suppressing thought in others. It is precisely the mind-set 
that accepted a “science' 1 of politics that fueled the utopias of totalitar¬ 
ian systems; and was, as Michael Oakeshott diagnosed, “the assimila¬ 
tion of politics to engineering . . . what may be called the myth of 
rationalist politics." 

Such thinking operates also by superficial analogies with the hard sci¬ 
ences, though such resemblances are usually of accidental features. As long 
ago as 1859 Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, “A pseudo-science consists of 
a nomenclature, with a self-adjusting arrangement, by which all positive 
evidence, or such as favours its doctrine, is admitted, and all negative evi¬ 
dence, or such as tells against it is excluded. 1 ' Or, as Emile Chartier (in his 
Systeme des Beaux-Arts) put it more recently, “We can prove anything we 
want to, the only real difficulty is to know what we want to prove." 

An idea that has always been misleading is that mathematical theory 
is suitable to the analysis of society. Of course there are numerical data 
in such fields as economics and demography, though even there they 
need critical treatment. But we have long had a quite different phenome¬ 
non—the allocation of numerical figures to political and historical 
data. This goes so far as to give a “numerical value" to intangibles and 

The objections are obvious. First, the data most measurable and 
hence most appealing to mathematizations may not be the most signifi¬ 
cant. An American Professor of Philosophy was once approached bv a 
researcher with the question, “How many pages of philosophy do your 

“The Answer Is Education” ♦ 233 

students of various grades have to read each semester?” “Well,” he 
replied, “I suppose I could check that for you. But isn't there a differ¬ 
ence between ten pages from a popular handbook and ten pages from 
Aristotle in the original?” “That's a matter of opinion . The number of 
pages is a matter of fact.” 

We have already spoken of the erratic nature of individuals, includ¬ 
ing rulers. I noted in the 1994—95 Program of Meetings of the Society for the 
Promotion of Roman Studies a lecture by J. J. Patterson on “Drink and 
Political Decision-Making in the Ancient World.” How this would be 
covered in mathematical or schematic political science terms is a fasci¬ 
nating question: C 2 H 5 OH divided by ? = ??. 

Already in the eighteenth century the notion of the omnicompetence 
or adequacy of “reason” deployed the concept of mathematically based 
politics. Condorcet (himself a mathematician as, of course, was 
Diderot) put forward the idea that given adequate statistical data, all 
social problems could be solved. This carries with it the implication 
that all who oppose such objectively based policies are sinning against 
the light; and so, again, it validates executive dictatorship, or at least 

It is reassuring to find that economists are beginning to abandon the 
idea of a mathematically predictive approach—which was, of course, 
rejected by Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes and many of their other 
predecessors, but which had become widely accepted since. Douglas 
North, Nobel Prize winner in economics, has said, “The price you pay 
for precision is inability to deal with real-world questions” (Wall Street 
Journal , 29 July 1994). 

As applied to politics, it is even less appropriate than in economics. 
Ironically enough, as the economists amend it, or open it to amendment 
by reality, political scientists who have taken it at second hand are still 
in the more primitive phase. 

True research is not done on those lines. But much research these 
days also reminds one of Sir Flinders Petrie, who transformed antiquar- 
ianism into archaeology: “When an author collects together the opin¬ 
ions of as many others as he can and fills half of every page with 
footnotes this is known as ‘scholarship. ” Or, even more broadly, Joshua 
Reynolds's comment that “a provision of endless apparatus, a bustle of 
infinite enquiry and research, may be employed to evade and shuffle off 
real labour—the real labour of thinking.” 

2J4 ♦ facing the consequences 


An outstanding example of the failure of academic and theoretical 
expertise was to be found in Robert McNamaras conduct of the 
Vietnam Wan In his recent apologia, he says that he failed to under¬ 
stand nationalism. No, what he failed to understand was Communism 
(though he no doubt misunderstood nationalism, too). He had no real 
idea of the motivations of the leadership on the “other side of the hill,” 
that traditional essential to sound strategy. Bertram Wolfe, who worked 
with Ho Chi Minh in the Comintern in Paris in the 1920s, once told 
me that Ho never mentioned his home countrv: he was an international 
apparatchik with purely Leninist attitudes. 

But McNamaras central error, which he still does not seem to under¬ 
stand, was that he undertook a responsibility involving the lives of 
scores of thousands of Americans and many more Vietnamese for 
which he was totally unqualified. This was true in the political sense 
adumbrated above, and in the military sense. Apart from what we can 
only call the cretinous body-count approach, for which perhaps the 
commanders he chose to rely on were at least partly responsible, we find 
(in our context) a complete apparatus of pseudoscientific lore. The 
whole approach of "signals and responses” was politically illiterate. And 
the military side had been penetrated by the then fashionable variant of 
inapplicable “scientific” approaches—“systems analysis ” 

The present writer, some years later, gave a talk at the Pentagon with 
the then Chief of Army Staff in the chair. Afterwards he said to me 
with a smile, of the strong criticism I had advanced against the use of 
systems analysis in such areas as war and politics, that probably two 
thirds of the majors and colonels who made up the audience were sys¬ 
tems analysts. His smile grew even broader when I suggested that surely 
some use could be found for them in the ranks of labor battalions. At 
any rate, inappropriate schematicism cost us all a good deal. But 
McNamara moved on to further disaster at the World Bank. 


It might be thought that by the time this book appears, all such 
approaches, having reached their term, would be dying out. One would 
have to have a highly rationalistic idea of the human mind, and of pro¬ 
fessional committment, to take such a view. 

Meanwhile, to the extent that these and similar Ideas subsist, univer- 

“The Answer Is Education” ♦ 23 j 

sities will be providing to some degree, at least in the humanities, a clas¬ 
sic type of miseducation. And the scientism of supposed experts on 
political, politico-economic and human themes is also associated, even 
in the West, with an excess of etatiste intervention with untested, 
unproven and often disastrous remedies. 

“Intelligentsia,’” used in English, is a word with a foreign tang. It 
somehow, not unjustly, conveys a more bohemian milieu than that of 
the present-day “chattering classes'* in America and Britain. I suggest 
(but will not irritate readers by overinsistence on it) “intelligentry.” 

Using the word in a general sense, it is not coterminous with Western 
academe. But it is much involved in what may be broadly called educa¬ 
tion. First, it is more or less the “educated” section of the community. 
Second, it establishes the habits of mind of the media and of public 
discussion in general—which of course seeps down from, and (if 
queried) is validated by, selected academe. 

What is mentally reprehensible about this intelligentry is just what 
made the Russian intelligentsia a century and more ago so inimical to 
reality and to serious thought. But that intelligentsia, as Adam Ulam 
points out, was in its vast majority against academic success, or academ¬ 
ic employment. It was, in fact, a culture of dropouts, and proud of it. 

Its present equivalent, though also hostile to the real world, largely 
appears within (as a sort of parallel world) a career-conscious and 
stipend-competitive modern academic caste. Thus we have, in the “disci¬ 
plines” that were not available for exploitation by the early Russian intelli¬ 
gentsia, a different social basis. One can certainly imagine Chernyshevsky 
as a present-day Professor of Political Science; but on the whole one feels 
that the intelligentsia would have maintained its poverty unviolated. One 
unfortunate result of this academicizing of the intelligentry is, as we have 
noted, that many of them are under institutional pressures to accept the 
Ideas of the prevailing sects. The old Russian intelligentsia bullied and 
blackmailed its converts, and anyone else susceptible to such tactics, but at 
least it lacked this powerful weapon. 


As Lionel Trilling once wrote: “This is the great vice of academicism, 
that it is concerned with ideas rather than with thinking,” and, he adds, 
“Nowadays the errors of academicism do not stay in the academy: they 
make their way into the world and what begins as a failure of percep- 


rion among intellectual specialists finds its fulfillment in policy and 

The information that pervades intelligentry minds is “expert/' In an 
interview some years ago, the young American actor Christopher Atkins 
described his first kiss. “I was horrified. I said to the girl, ‘Do you have 
to slobber all over me?'" She replied that it was correct to use the 
tongue, took him all the way back to her house, found a book called The 
Joy of Sex, and showed him the procedure, laid down in the manuals 
appropriate page. 

In this case, not much harm, if any, seems to emerge. But the way in 
which “informed" opinions may be considerably more misleading was 
demonstrated (in a way that horrifies one a good deal more than his 
dates kiss horrified the young man quoted above) in an article in 
Scientific American as early as February 1982. The writer, dealing with the 
effects of low-level radiation, printed a table of thirty causes, or possi¬ 
ble causes, of death, first with the true results as determined actuarially, 
then as perceived by three groups of educated citizens—members of 
the League of Women Voters, Students and Businessmen. 

Both the Women Voters and the Students ranked nuclear power as 
the cause of the most deaths, well ahead of motor vehicles, smoking, 
handguns and all the rest. The Businessmen not so high, but still eighth, 
ahead of surgery, aviation, railroads and so on. The actuarial figures 
showed that nuclear power ranked twentieth, above mountain climbing 
but below contraceptives, with approximately 100 deaths a year (mostly, 
of course, from nonnuclear accidents in the industry). Motor vehicles 
killed around 50,000, handguns around 17,000, surgery around 2,800, 
railroads around 1,950. 

An even more striking revelation comes with the imagined and the 
true figures for pesticides. The Women Voters ranked them ninth, which 
would mean about 2,000 deaths; the Students made them fourth—that 
is, around 17,000 deaths; even the Businessmen made them fifteenth—at 
the 200 level. The true figure was too small to register, but at any rate 
less than 10. (And spray cans, actually thirtieth of the thirty, were ranked 
as fourteenth and thirteenth, respectively, by the first two categories.) 

And this is how, in America at least, the citizenry, and more especial¬ 
ly those supposed to be among the better-educated or most concerned 
with public policy, envisaged important facts. They were thus totally 
misinformed. Their state of mind was stuck among the panics of the 

“The Answer Is Education” ♦ 237 

Middle Ages, when rumors that the wells had been poisoned by the 
Jews or the Gypsies swept whole populations of illiterate and backward 
peasants. When the California fruit crop was threatened by the pestifer¬ 
ous Medfly, it became necessary to spray large areas from the air with 
chemicals long proven to have no effect whatever on human beings. The 
state nearly let it go till too late, owing to protests not from the farmers 
but from the sophisticated townships of Silicon Valley. Similarly with 
the recent protests against a few pounds of plutonium in a spacecraft. A 
horrifying primitivism persists. 

But Ug at least had no pretensions to be an Educated Man or an 
Informed Citizen. The problem is not so much that these nourish 
primitive fantasies as that they make no effort to correct these by 
means of the discriminating forebrains of which they are so proud; 
that they do not, when faced with a danger, take the rational course of 
seeking out the facts. As it is, they build up a picture of the facts— 
often a fallacious one—from what they find around; that is, in the 
media, which is to say the eye-catching mixture of fact, factiousness, 
guesswork and invention which forms the most readily available store 
of public wisdom. 

It may be said that the public gets the media it deserves. Still, one 
may surely feel some repugnance for the new caste of cheap demagogues 
battening on the new superstitiousness. The Headmaster of Malvern 
wrote a few years ago that his boys, while highly skeptical about reli¬ 
gion, were highly credulous about Chariots of the Gods. Unless there is 
a change in the public mind, the world is in trouble. The kiss of death 
may be dry rather than slobbery, but it is pretty unpleasant all the same. 

16 . 

Not only the natural enough misunderstanding of historical happen¬ 
ings, but the falsification of recent events in a more or less conscious 
propaganda direction is also common. 

The most notorious example was the Oliver Stone film, JFK , about 
the assassination of John Kennedy. This was based on what, as had 
been made clear to the producer, was a pack of falsehoods. Now, of 
course, the right to tell lies is inherent in the right to free speech. But 
the right to expose such lies, to bring discredit on their sponsors, to 
make their name a hissing and a byword is also contained in that 
right. The Kennedy film was indeed savaged in the “serious” press, 


both left and right. But this was not enough to shame, or even shake, 
the promoters. 

Anti-British, or anti-English, films are as common as the anti- 
American variety, and have had an effect in (for example) Australia. 
Nor, as the world-famous critic John Gross has pointed out, can much 
good have come of a recent allegedly historical film about the Irish 
leader Michael Collins which shows a—completely inauthentic—scene 
of a British armored car firing on a football crowd. 

At a less scandalous level, Gross also censures the film Braveheart , a 
largely mythical account of William Wallace, in which the English are 
the worst—indeed the only—ravagers. It is hard to say how much 
Anglophobia (the only permissible xenophobia) it may have stirred up. 
But on the positive side, one of my sons tells me that he was lately in 
Texas with a group of Americans who asked a visiting Scot what he 
thought of the film, doubtless expecting an anti-English outburst. But 
he answered: “Tairrible! Its no’ but a haggis Western.” 

Even worse, of course, is the recent Ted Turner series on the Cold 
War, much of it ludicrously tilted against the West—and now seeking 
acceptance as a teaching tool in the American educational system. 


Overlapping all this we find in the intelligently a section that is Idea- 
prone in a more abysmal way. These are not necessarily complete or 
conscious devotees of an ideology; but, starting with the notion that 
defects of society are due to class or racial oppression, they absorb more 
than enough of that. This stratum is noted for its irreconcilability, its 
intensity. As to self-righteousness, as I write I have just seen, parked in 
its slot outside an academic flat on an “elite” campus, a smart little 
sports car with stickers on its bumpers: 

Ignore the Dominant Paradigm 

Silence Is Complicity. 

The latter is, of course, an incitement to yell something about smug, 
self-satisfied, blinkered bourgeois. 

“The Answer Is Education” ♦ 239 

It is only in a contradictory spirit that I quote Deng Xiaoping, then 
General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, in a report to the 
Chinese Central Committee of 23 September 1957, where he says that 
“the bourgeois intelligentsia, in addition to the fact that a small segment 
of it adheres to right-wing views, also suffers from other seriously mis¬ 
taken views, specifically individualism, liberalism, anarchism, leveling 
and nationalism/’ 

One might feel that some of our own bourgeois intelligentsia has not 
such a good record. 



Halfway to One World: 
Imperialism, Anti-imperialism 


W ith all its faults, hardly anyone really doubts that “the 
West/’ in a general way, is the progenitor and center of 
what world community or world political culture now 
exists. There are of course those who resent this, and even ideological- 
interest groups who deny it, or much of it. We may note, however, that 
even extreme opponents of “the West,” or many of them, are devoted to 
perverse products of Western thought. 

For capitalism, socialism, industrialization, modern technology and 
science, the nation-state are, broadly speaking, Western inventions. But 
above all, the idea and practice of the fairly consensual society, of the 
element of criticism within it, and of the rule of law are the founda¬ 
tions of the Anglo-Celtic culture, and constitute in the long run— 
imperfectly, improvably—both its source of power and its usefulness in 
the evolution of a stable world community. 

None of this is to suggest any racial superiorities. It was all a mat¬ 
ter of historical chance. As we noted in Chapter II, some of its char¬ 
acteristics have arisen in other areas and may evolve without too much 
stress into the broader concept. Indeed, it is precisely because the 
West can in the long run pervade and be pervaded by the world at 
large (and so cease to be “Western”) that it is valuable to humanity as 
a whole. 

And saying all this is not, of course, to deny the achievements of 

Halfway to One World: Imperialism } Anti-imperialism ♦ 242 

other cultures and other civilizations—in the arts and architecture, in 
administration and imagination, in literature and philosophy. 


The linkage of the continents into a potentially single world was of 
course the result of European explorers, followed by European trade 
and European colonization—and European ideas. 

We have heard a lot lately about the decline of empires. This is usu¬ 
ally a set of false parallels designed to show that America is inevitably 
heading for a fall. The Roman Empire fell; the British Empire fell; so 
the American Empire will also go—thus runs the argument when 
stripped of its trappings. The objections are obvious. The Roman and 
British empires were radically different from each other. A great histo¬ 
rian of the period, J. B. Bury, after a careful and detailed analysis, came 
to the conclusion that the fall of the Western Empire was due to acci¬ 
dent. In any case, the end of Britain’s empire was in every respect dif¬ 
ferent from that of Rome (not merely that London was not sacked by 
Afghans!). And, except under some different usage, there is no such 
thing as an American Empire. As it is, we use the word “Empire” of a 
variety of polities. The Roman Empire, the Macedonian, Assyrian, 
Persian and other ancient states qualify. Earlier on the rulers of what 
we now call “empires,” Sargon or Xerxes, were simply “the great king,” 
with the implication of superiority if not universal supremacy. 
Alexander, too: 

Daroosh is dead and I am king 

Of everywhere and everything 

exaggerates. But some such claim or share of a claim is implied right 
through the Lower Empire, Charlemagne and so on; and, of course, by 
the Mongol and Chinese rulers. 

Then such oddities as Napoleons Empire. And the Holy Roman 
Empire (“of the German Nation” ), which, as Voltaire pointed out, was 
neither Holy nor Roman nor an Empire. The term is applied, too, to 
such states as the Japanese Empire, which now rules no foreigners at all, 
since this is the formal usage. And the then British Empire, which, on the 
contrary, did not formally exist. The King of the United Kingdom and 
“his other realms and territories” had no title as British Emperor, and the 


Empire only turned up formally in a few minor contexts—the Imperial 
General Staff, the Order of the British Empire—or as a practical formu¬ 
la, though, as the report of the Imperial Conference in 1926 put it, 

Nothing would have been gained by attempting to lay down a 
Constitution for the British Empire. Its widely scattered parts have very 
different characteristics, and are at very different stages of evolution; 
while, considered as a whole, it defies classification and bears no real 
resemblance to any other political organization which now exists or has 
ever yet been tried. 

The king was indeed also “Emperor of India,” a different thing (the last 
Empress of India is still alive as I write). 

3 . 

Empire and its concomitant—Imperialism—are now almost exclusively 
used of British and other European rule over territories overseas. But 
before we consider these still highly controversial matters, we should 
note, of Empire in general, that four generations ago the whole of the 
vast territory between the Belgian border and the Bering Straits, between 
the Belt and the Arabian Sea, was ruled by four empires—German, 
Austro-Hungarian, Turkish and Russian. This area is now divided 
between some thirty-five sovereign states. Nor was the term 
“Imperialism” commonly used of these empires, other than Russia’s 
(apart from Germany’s overseas adventures). 

But in all these contiguous subject areas, the nationalism which we 
have discussed earlier became in the twentieth century, as it had not 
been previously, a dominant historical force. 

The nature of the “new nations’” relationship with their foreign 
rulers and with each other requires consideration of the varied history 
of the empires concerned. Meanwhile, let us note that (at the present 
count) sixteen of the subject nations in this area which later emerged 
into independence were European. 

The German Empire proper, though containing major border minori¬ 
ties, was not in the normal sense multinational, although it tried to 
become so in 1914—18. The Turkish Empire had not in principle con¬ 
sidered its subjects in nationality terms, dividing them rather by religious 
communities; but, particularly in its European part, nationalities were 

Halfway to One World: Imperialism, Anti-imperialism ♦ 243 

arising until its dissolution in 1919. Austria-Hungary was indeed multi¬ 
national, and had begun an attempt to reconcile its various nationalities, 
or at least some of them, in a way still, or again, relevant, in that there is 
now a consciously similar movement in Central Europe. For, unlike what 
has to some extent happened in regard to the old spheres ol Britain, 
France and the others, the former subjects of Austria have little in the 
way of resentment of Vienna. Even the countries more recently ravaged 
by Germany are supposed to forgive, if not quite forget. And it is true 
that localized national rivalries, where the peoples involved are still there 
around the frontiers, are in some ways more persistent than the anti¬ 
imperialisms directed against a vanished power and a fading history. 

That leaves us with the largest, and longest-lasting, land empire— 
that of Russia. 

The Russian Empire spread over quite disparate territories, at differ¬ 
ent times. Eastward, the whole of northern Siberia had been brought 
under Russian rule in the seventeenth century, and was and is largely 
populated by Russians—though leaving major enclaves of earlier peo¬ 
ples, mostly Finnic and Turkic, who are now demanding autonomy or 

The Slavic, Baltic and Finnic peoples to the west and south of Russia 
were conquered in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries; the peo¬ 
ples of the Caucasus mainly in the first half of the nineteenth century, at 
a time when the British were completing their hold over India; the Turkic 
and Iranian peoples of Central Asia in the last part of the nineteenth 
century, when European rule over Africa was being established. These 
territories to the south were thus comparable to the other colonial 
empires. The Siberian expansion was more like the movement across 
Canada. And the expansion into Europe compares only with those of the 
other intra-European imperial powers that perished in 1918. 

By the time the First World War broke out, national feelings in the 
Russian Empire had emerged, or revived, in all these disparate populations. 

From the earliest years of the Bolshevik Party, Lenin and his col¬ 
leagues had been in favor of taking over the old Russia as a centralized 
state, with no more than a grant of cultural rights to the subject peo¬ 
ples. In the revolutionary period they sought support among local 
nationalities in the immediate struggle, with no thought of any long¬ 
term commitments. But their victory was such a near thing, and so pre¬ 
carious, that in the end they organized the new state on the basis of 

244 ♦ facing the consequences 

giving national feeling the maximum apparent role compatible with the 
reality of Soviet centralization. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, 
formed in 1922, defined its members as ‘‘sovereign states” with the 
constitutional right of secession. The new republics were to be “nation¬ 
al in form, socialist in content”—sometimes defined as the freedom to 
be Communist in your own language. This, to some degree, at least for a 
few years, took the edge off national resentment. 

But all in all it was fraud, and the populations soon began to resent 
Moscow rule as not just communist but also imperial. In the West, though, 
and to an astonishing degree among the anti-imperialistic in the Western 
colonies, the new system was seen by many as solving the national ques¬ 
tion. As we now know, it did nothing of the sort. The Soviet Union 
remained in practice just another empire, and one particularly unpleasing 
to its subjects. It was clear, too, that any prospect of a future “liberalized” 
Soviet Union was impossible—since if liberty were granted, the peripheral 
nations would vote for independence. This was not difficult to see even a 
third of a century ago, when I observed in Russia after Khrushchevy 

If the Soviet Union is to deal with its colonial problem in even the most 
superficially adequate way, it has no real choice but to turn itself into a gen¬ 
uine federation. But if the unity so created were voluntary, it might be tem¬ 
porary and precarious. The present rulers would certainly make no move in 
such a direction if they could possibly help it. But they may yet find them¬ 
selves constrained by forces outside their control to make concessions— 
which could only lead to bigger demands, put forward from positions of 
increased strength. The question is critical, and not only is it unsolved, but 
it is probably insoluble under the present system. That is to say, it is one of 
the elements in the present general crisis of the Soviet system, and one that 
could lead to future changes which may now appear remote and extravagant. 
Here, again, we should remember that the Soviet future is unlikely to com¬ 
prise an easy and evolutionary development, and that any too cautious or 
conservative view of its potentialities is certain to be wrong. 

Meanwhile, the last and largest multinational empire has belatedly 
gone the way of the others. Its legacy, as we have said, is the eruption of 
long-suppressed nationalist forces, both Russian and non-Russian. It 
will take some time before they settle into reasonably stable conditions. 
The detail of the Russian and Soviet colonial past and the post-Soviet 
present is indeed complex. On the general position, one can only say 

Halfway to One World: Imperialism, Anti-imperialism ♦ 24 J 

that so far there has been less friction between the successor states than 
we might have feared; but that the exceptions—in the Caucasus and the 
Crimea and on the Dniester in particular—could in certain circum¬ 
stances be the forerunners of trouble elsewhere, and that Western policy 
should be ready to encourage stability and discourage instability as one 
of its more urgent tasks. 

At any rate, the main lesson of the Soviet Unions breakdown is that 
in the modern age of national consciousness multinational arrange¬ 
ments are precarious, as with Yugoslavia as well as the USSR. In our 
time at least, the closer nations come together, the looser the ties that 
unite them must be. 


“Imperialism/’ not only in the British case, is a fairly modern concept, 
usually in a hostile sense. It is, in any case, as with other wordings we 
have noted, often used as though it were first a single scarcely differenti¬ 
ated phenomenon and, second, a conscious ’ideology” of those seen as 
practicing it. In reality, things were different. 

First, in the British case, broadly speaking the empire preceded the 
idea, and “Imperialism” as an aim and concept only emerged in the late 
nineteenth century and even then by no means dominated Londons 
thinking. Its main proponents (as also in the United States’ lesser 
expansion) were “liberal imperialists” who saw themselves as emancipa¬ 
tors. More generally, the Empire remained, as it always had been, prag¬ 
matic—a matter of piecemeal expansion and with frequent retreats. 

The French overseas empire was, in the main, a far more conscious 
effort. The German was almost entirely so—with “a place in the sun” 
claptrap. If we confine ourselves to such empires, in which a metropoli¬ 
tan center rules over other countries, we are at least positing a structural 
resemblance. But even these empires, which have vanished, or all but 
vanished, in the post—World War II period, differed enormously. 

Anton Chekhov made the point. He was much impressed by the 
British role in Hong Kong. In a passage omitted from the otherwise 
scholarly twenty-volume Soviet edition of his Complete Works and Letters, 
he says he is “indignant” at fellow Russians who criticize the Briton 
for “exploiting” the locals. He says, yes he may, but in return he gives 
them various benefits, while the Russians “also exploit, but what do 

you give 



The new nations arising over this century emerged out of, but also 
against, the empires. 

V S. Naipaul has written in moving terms of how bitter it was for an 
Indian that his country’s entry into the broader world—mentally as well 
as physically—was brought about by foreign rulers, and yet how vital it 
was. Reading a dispassionate Britons account of India a hundred and 
forty years ago, Naipaul finds that the Muslim had no duties to anyone 
outside his faith, the Hindu none to anyone outside his “clan,” neither 
having the general idea of the responsibility of man to his fellows: 

And because of that missing large idea of human association, the country 
works blindlv on, and all the bravery and skills of its people lead to nothing. 

It is hard for an Indian not to feel humiliated by Russell’s book 
^William Howard Russell’s My Diary in the Year 1858—9 ]. Part of the 
humiliation the Indian feels comes from the ambiguity of his response, 
his recognition that the Indian system that is being overthrown has come 
to the end of its possibilities, that its survival can lead only to more of 
what has gone before, that the India that will come into being at the end 
of the period of British rule will be better educated, more creative and 
full of possibility than the India of a centurv before; that it will have a 
larger idea of human association, and that out of this larger idea, and out 
of the encompassing humiliation of British rule, there will come to India 
the ideas of country and pride and historical self-analysis, things that 
seem impossibly remote from the India of Russell’s march. 

Thus, Naipaul adds, “for every Indian the British period in India is full 
of ambiguities.” 

Rather similarly, Nirad Chaudhuri, veteran critic of both Britain and 
India, dedicates his book The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian f 

to the memory of the British Empire in India which conferred subject- 
hood on us but withheld citizenship; to which yet every one of us threw 
out the challenge: “Civis Brittanicus Sum” because all that was good and 
living within us was made, shaped, and quickened by the same British rule. 

As we noted, imperialism as a conscious concept of a section of the 
British ruling class only emerged long after the rise of actual empire. 

Halfway to One World: Imperialism } Anti-imperialism ♦ 247 

Opposition to the whole expansion, let alone to the Idea, was wide¬ 
spread in Britain (and conquered territories were frequently given up for 
such reasons). Anti-imperialism among the subject peoples was also a 
late development. Until this point was reached, there was no special 
resentment against British rule as such. The rising Indian intellectual 
class supported the repression of the “Indian Mutiny.” In fact, the mere 
substitution of overseas rulers for local, or Afghan, power was widely 

Chaudhuri comments that this remained largely so until World War I, 
but that from then on national feeling and national resentment began to 
take over. As resentments and aspirations arose, there was plenty to fuel 
them. It was not so much that it is easy to compile a list of imperial 
excesses and oppressions, in particular the spectacular example of the 
1919 Amritsar Massacre. These in themselves pale compared with those 
committed over most of world history over a greater part of the world, 
including the area of the empire before and after British rule; but com¬ 
mitted on behalf of what was now increasingly seen as alien power, they 
greatly shook, though they did not destroy, the long and often interrupt¬ 
ed Indian-British dialogue that led, a generation later, to independence. 

It is not only that even occasional wounds inflicted by alien rulers are 
alwavs harder to take. As is clear from all the leading analyses from 
Kedourie and Gellner to the more direct evidence of Chaudhuri and 
others, the leading offense given by the British was that they only spo¬ 
radically and belatedly admitted the colonized, even as they became 
qualified by every other criterion of the West, to full partnership. 

It has been rightly stressed by many from every side that—not only 
in India—British condescension, even when it did not degenerate (as it 
too often did) into gross offensiveness, was greatly resented. A represen¬ 
tative of Fiji at a “Third World” conference in Beijing soon after its 
independence caused a minor ideological scandal by saying that British 
rule in his country had not been bad, but that the “colonialists” had 
been far too standoffish. 

As Orwell says, it is perhaps inevitable that a ruling nation sees itself 
as superior, otherwise why is it ruling? Still, in this context at least, the 
British seem to have been far worse offenders than the French. But the 
mere “humiliation” (as Naipaul puts it) was felt more deeply, the psy¬ 
chological wounds of implied inferiority being in some ways more last¬ 
ing, than violence (as de Gaulle said, “Blood dries quickly”). Still, the 


negative side has been lavishly exposed and attacked, especially over 
recent years. And a serious view needs to take in the positives—not only 
in themselves but as compared with the other European empires. 

6 . 

It is an odd circumstance that the “racial” attitude on the British side 
did not really emerge until well after the establishment of British rule in 
India. As Percival Spear shows in his The Nabobs , private letters between 
prominent British officials in Warren Hastings's time speak of local 
worthies (and not merely rajahs and such) in the most soundly equal 
terms. And, of course, much of India was already under what for the 
populations was foreign rule, while the divisions of caste and religion 
far overshadowed race as such. It was not until Lord Cornwallis became 
Governor-General at the end of the eighteenth century that the down¬ 
grading of Indians both officially and socially began (so that this figure 
can, in a sense, be held responsible for two great failures). 

Still, even a century later the atmosphere was not unrelievedly 
deplorable. My maternal grandfather, in the Indian civil service over a 
century ago, collected with his friend S. T. Shaligram and published in 
Bombay in Marathi (and later in an English translation in London) the 
Marathi ballads, hitherto found only in oral form (and in some cases on 
the brink of being lost). My point, however, is to quote a passage from 
his introduction: 

I had known for a long time of the existence of the noble ballad in this vol¬ 
ume which tells of the famous escalade of Singhur by Tannaji Maloosray, 
and had for months, or even years, been pushing enquiries in the Deccan 
with the view of discovering the man who knew it. It happened quite by 
accident at Satara that Dajirao Shirke, a gentleman on the establishment of 
Sirdar Rajaram Bhonsle (both of whom will, I hope, excuse me for men¬ 
tioning their names), learnt what Mr. Shaligram and I were about 

—and gave the necessary help. Again we find in a footnote: “1 am much 
indebted to my friend Mr. Purshotam B. Joshi for help in this descrip¬ 
tion of the Gondhalis.” This is not the language of Nazis on Slavs, let 
alone Jews. (Sometime after independence his other grandson attended 
the unveiling of a bust to him at the leper colony he had founded.) 

On another note, my great-great-uncle Captain (later Admiral) 
Francis Close had a command in the 1850s in the anti-slave-trade 

Halfway to One World: Imperialism } Anti-imperialism ♦ 249 

patrol maintained by the Royal Navy off the West African coast. I still 
have his notebooks of that time. We used to see the name plate he had 
taken from a captured slaver: the Lydia Cibbs of Salem. 

Attitudes like my grandfathers seem not to have been uncommon in 
official circles. The period we are speaking of was before the national 
movement really began. The Indian National Congress had only been 
founded—hosted by an Englishman—five years before, and was to take 
a very gradualist stance for a generation to come. But later, too, that 
attitude was not uncommon. One humiliation is not to be compensated 
for by a thousand instances of amenity. All the same, these are worth 
registering if only to correct false conceptions of the whole picture. 


Naipaul argues that the long “British Peace” of the late nineteenth 
and early twentieth centuries gave India the chance to mature. And 
this may be said of the whole empire: over most of it, nations in the 
sense of self-defining entities developed mainly through the import of 
Western ideas, and it was always foreseen—by Macaulay, even by 
Kipling—that they would devolve from London’s control. Which 
indeed they did, without much trouble from Britain (though a fair 
amount among themselves). We may thus see the Empire, with all its 
negative features, as an institution in withdrawal as and when nations 
developed. In fact, a number of the new nations in the Third World 
had gradually reached a cultural self-consciousness learned by their 
elites at Western universities. 

A statistical analysis by Seymour Martin Lipset, Kyoung-Ryung 
Seong and John Charles Torres, recently found that the variable having a 
higher relation to democracy than any other the world over was “having 
been a British colony.” They—none of them of British origin inciden¬ 
tally—attribute this to the fact that many of the old British colonies 
had had “elections, parties and the rule of law before independence,” so 
that, unlike in the French, Dutch, Soviet and other empires, “out 
groups” were gradually “incorporated into the polity.” 

Again, Orwell, himself a devoted opponent of British rule in the 
subcontinent and elsewhere, points out that “over the whole of its vast 
extent, a quarter of the worlds surface, there were fewer armed men 
than would be thought necessary by a small Balkan state.” In what is 
now Ghana, there were fewer than a hundred armed Europeans. In what 


is now Zambia, a country the size of France, there was one battalion of 
local troops, with a few dozen British officers and others; while the 
police only carried truncheons. 

8 . 

Naipaul is, of course, of Hindu origin, from Trinidad, so has a double 
perspective on the old empire. His broad verdict, in an American inter¬ 
view, gives the impression, as do his other comments, of having been, as 
it were, wrung from him: he calls the British imperial record '‘pretty ter¬ 
rific. It would be churlish to say otherwise. It would be foolish to say 
otherwise. It would be unhistorical to say otherwise.” 

The British version of empire has, moreover, left some notable signs 
of the survival of the good side of the relationship. In particular the 
Commonwealth, joined by almost all except the admitted imperial fail¬ 
ures like Burma and Ireland. And there is little anti-imperialism in the 
tone of the 1997 application by the government and opposition in Fiji 
to rejoin it, “and, in this way, re-establish cherished and treasured links 
with the British Crown.” 

Nevertheless, resentments at empire are reasonable and inevitable. 
Part of its legacv is, naturally, some level of hostility against the for¬ 
mer colonial power. This emerges in its more extreme form as an 
obsessive Idea, historically a distortion and currently a diversion from 
real problems. And this latter comes in two modes. First, in the poli¬ 
tics of the former colonial countries themselves; but second, in the 
West, and in particular the United States, where a lack of direct expe¬ 
rience and a tendency to simplify views has allowed overcrude concep¬ 
tions to flourish. 

American intellectual opinion, even among those with no particular 
political attitudes, often sees imperialism in terms of E. M. Forsters A 
Passage to India and Joseph Conrads Heart of Darkness . As Chaudhuri 
points out, Forster was wrong on almost all counts, but particularly in 
giving the impression that the failure of contact took place on the 
administrative side. On the contrary, as Chaudhuri notes, it was in the 
administration that the best relations existed; it was the social barriers 
that caused the trouble. 

Heart of Darkness is based on Conrads experiences in the Congo, where 
fearful chaos and misery and death had resulted under Belgian rule, or 
rather absence of effective rule. Conrad specifically attacked the Belgian 

Halfway to One World: Imperialism\ } Anti-imperialism ♦ 151 

experience, and also that of the Spanish in the Philippines and the 
Dutch in Indonesia, and commented of the latter s Boer offshoot that it 
was “a fact that they have no idea of liberty, which can only be found 
under the British flag all over the world.” 


In the ex-colonial countries, to a considerable degree, the “anti-imperial- 
ist” Idea persists in ritualistic form, or as an increasingly unpersuasive way 
of transferring some of the responsibility for present troubles from the 
local political leadership—nothing to be either shocked or surprised at. 

But this natural sentiment is also a basis for a view of all Western 
influence as a continuation of imperialism—with "colonialism” replaced 
by “neocolonialism”; under this rubric, any local politician who can 
claim to be less subservient to the West can accumulate some ideological 

This approach thus sees current relations between the ex-colonies 
and “advanced” countries as still of an essentially imperial type, with 
the United States in the major imperial role. 

The United States is, true enough, the only surviving superpower. As 
such, its “interests” include a worldwide foreign policy and commitments. 
To call such arrangements “imperialistic” is a natural demagogy in anticivic 
circles. And that implies an American “Empire”—which is indeed a phrase 
sometimes used; but, as we have said, the image is metaphorical. Nor does 
the hoped-for civilization and democratization of the world mean its sub¬ 
jection to American power. On the contrary, it implies the withdrawal of 
American power in favor of a congeries of mutually friendly nations. 

Sensitivity to the charge of “imperialism” has led to a reluctance to 
“interfere” in the affairs of Third World countries in the hands of klep- 
tocratic dictatorships.! hat is, not to insist on credible internal econom¬ 
ic policies as a condition for aid. This ruinous attitude has now worn 
thin but is still trouble enough. 

However, the American historical tradition seems to generate “anti¬ 
imperialist” misapprehensions (just as the American Irish—or their 
politically active spokesmen—have been far more anti-British than the 
Irish Irish). A well-known American science magazine a few years ago 
carried a letter from an Indian scientist resident in the United States 
stating (among other misleading matters) that famine had ceased since 
the British left India. I remember the former leader of the opposition in 


the Lok Sabha, Mr. Minoo Masani, telling me how the legal definition 
of famine, that is, the conditions requiring a state of famine to be 
declared, had been changed, not the reality. Once more, words. (And the 
context may remind us that a conscious falsehood about the fearful Irish 
famine has been inserted into New York school texts.) 

The Idea of Anti-imperialism is thus to be considered on several 
grounds. First, it is traditionally pervasive in the United States, though 
given its most extreme form in anti-Western academe. Second, it is used 
as a negative label for any effort by the United States, or the West, to 
encourage liberties, to block fanaticisms, and to make aid dependent on 
positive economic policies. Those concerned with the future develop¬ 
ment of their countries, and of the world, cannot afford to let obsolete 
resentments distort their aims. 

So what purpose is served by the usual employment nowadays of the 
words “imperialism” and “colonialism”? First, it implies a malign force 
with no program but the subjugation and exploitation of innocent peo¬ 
ples. Second, it implies that this is something like a single undifferenti¬ 
ated entity. Third, it implies that there were in no case ever any real 
benefits, to the world or to the colonized regions. Fourth, it implies that 
the continuing troubles of the former colonies are due not merely to the 
heritage of foreign rule but also to its continuation, or revival in a new 
but essentially indistinguishable form, after the disappearance of the 
former rulers. 

Only the second part of the fourth proposition is at least arguable, 
but if so, it requires a reformulation. The rest of the implications are 
untenable, with the terms “imperialism” and “colonialism” serving 
mainly to confuse, and of course to replace, the complex and needed 
process of understanding with the simple and unneeded process of 

All this is only to say that “imperialist” and “colonialist” are nowa¬ 
days to a large degree mind-blockers and thought-extinguishers compa¬ 
rable to “sexist” and so on in internal polemics. 

Chapter XIV 


The “Europe” Idea 


I t is sometimes argued that Britain and other former colonial pow¬ 
ers, having lost their empires, should make up for it by abandoning 
their independence. And “Europe,” in the sense of a prospective 
political and economic union of some of the countries of that conti¬ 
nent, is nowadays much promoted. 

Geographically speaking, Europe is a somewhat hazy concept—an 
ill-defined peninsula of Eurasia, with its eastern frontiers on the Urals 
and the Emba River, its southeastern along the Kuzma-Manych depres¬ 
sion (the traditional line of the Caucasus having been largely aban¬ 
doned). Europe, in encyclopedias, is described as including Ireland, 
Madeira and other Atlantic islands, but not Cyprus. The Trans-Emban 
villager is, of course, no different from the Cis-Emban: Russia is not 
readily divisible into such continental categories (nor, of course, is 
Turkey). In practice, it has been usual to define Europe in the histori- 
co-political sense as the area to the west of Russia—though this has 
involved certain changes as frontiers have moved. Still, it is in this nar¬ 
rower and more homogeneous sphere that a specifically European 
political and general culture is nowadays conventionally located. 

This faces two obvious objections. First, that to the degree that a 
European tradition exists, it is not confined to the geographical limits 
of this Little Europe, but also extends, in all but an absurdly restrictive 
sense, to its transoceanic transplants. 

Second, that Europe, or European thought, has generated a wide vari¬ 
ety of political notions; and that the linguistic, legal and administrative 
traditions of the countries of that part of Europe usually considered 
representative of its civilization are notably dissimilar. 


The concept of “Europe” as nevertheless a political, or politico-eco¬ 
nomic, entity has been supported by a variety of more or less pragmatic 
arguments. But in principle it is plainly something different—an Idea. 
This in the sense that it implies the imposition of an agenda unjustified 
by historical or other realities. In Russia the authorities are officially 
seeking a new credo or icfea for the nation. In the states of Western 
Europe a somewhat similar moral void seems to have emerged with the 
defeat of the socialist, let alone the communist, idea. “Europe” seems to 
emerge, in many minds, as a sort of substitute. 

And, as argued earlier, to be put into effect an Idea requires an abnor¬ 
mal proliferation of bureaucracy. Though the bureaucratic trend can 
subsist without a sustaining Idea, it does so with weaker morale and 
greater vulnerability. The previous excesses of Western bureaucracy were 
morally justified in terms of the humanistic benefit of nationalization 
and etatization to the population. This is now largely abandoned; so the 
bureaucratic trend was left mentally unprotected. On this view, the 
Europe Idea played an important psychological role. 

And, as has long since been pointed out, European federalism has 
another of the most definitive characteristics of the Idea—every event, 
whatever way it turns out, supports the thesis; when it prospers, that 
proves its case; when it falters, that proves it should do the same, only 
more so. The European Federationist arguments are mainly two. First, in 
terms of sentiment, of a supposed European feeling. Second, in terms 
of hardheadedness, this-is-the-future and so on. 

The notion of a European allegiance, emerging after World War II, 
was, at a superficial level, in some ways an honorable and appealing one. 
What it missed and misses, above all, is how the feel of citizenship aris¬ 
es—that it cannot simply be elicited by appeals or compulsions on 
behalf of a supranational entity. This crucial point has been evaded by 
even the most effective apologists (such as the Labour MP Giles Radice). 
And this is to say nothing of the noncivic histories of many European 
nations. Fifty years is not a long time, and we are still in a period where it 
is difficult enough to get Fleming to lie down with Walloon, let alone 
Croat with Serb. The “European” answer to this is that there is indeed a 
danger of strife, and that a supranational European state or federation 
will be a vehicle by which the forces of goodwill can prevent nationalist 
eruptions. But how? To say that the larger federal unit will provide so 
much of a counterattraction, as against nationalism, that it will win in 

The “Europe” Idea ♦ ijj 

the political field is speculation—and a speculation not justified by the 
experience of other multinational federations. The world has seen many 
such arrangements break up—not only the USSR, Yugoslavia and 
Czechoslovakia but also the United Arab Republic, the Federation of the 
West Indies, and Malaysia. Indeed one might add in this century the 
union of Sweden and Norway, and of Austria and Hungary; and, earlier, 
two separate attempts to form a Central American union. 


The “European” attitude has something in common with the short¬ 
sightedness, and too great reliance simply on political willpower, of the 
revolutionaries. Like them—though of course to nothing like the same 
degree—there is excessive stress on easily graspable, or generally fine- 
sounding, ideas and too little on the real structure of our cultures. 
Certainly the drift of events can be mastered by conscious action. But 
we should not think in terms of government decisions that our broadest 
and deepest cultural attitudes would simply follow. Nothing could be 
shallower. The political leader who wishes to carve out the forms of the 
future is likely to be more successful if he goes with the deep-seated tra¬ 
ditions of a civilization rather than across them. And if the Dover- 
Calais day-tripper is to replace Drake as a British culture hero, at least 
let him not set up as a man of broader horizons. 

A ponderous section of the British establishment, or political-finan¬ 
cial-media class, has been imbued with the Europe Idea. There is of 
course now, as ever, a great deal of lively intellectual critique and a 
minority (as yet!) of less superficial politicians who have had an effect 
on the momentum; and there will be more. But meanwhile, the position 
is, mutatis mutandis, not unlike that of the 1930s, when the same polit¬ 
ical-establishment stratum, left and right, favored the ill-considered 
policies of appeasement. 

We are told that both Michael Heseltine and Kenneth Clark were 
struck, when “over there,” with what a fine idea the United States of 
America was, and thought a United States of Europe would be an equally 
good thing. At any rate, some of the “arguments” seem to be at this level. 
In fact, no serious reasons (properly speaking) have ever been advanced for 
British membership of the EU. It has been urged on the grounds that it is 
economically desirable; this is demonstrably untrue of certain of the EUs 
policies, and insofar as a single market is in principle helpful, it is only so 


if it does not become a protectionist zone against the rest of the world. 
Then, the political unity of “Europe” is represented as in itself a good 
thing. This is supported by various subsidiary arguments, but these either 
present various advantages obtainable without political unity or make such 
assertions as that political unification alone will prevent Franco-German 
wars—though if that is the case, it seems that it would emerge without 
British submission to an authority supposedly organized for that purpose. 
But more generally, few specific, and no general, advantages are put for¬ 
ward. Indeed, when the economic claims are made, this is said to be the 
reason for the transfer of power to Brussels; but when the economic bur¬ 
dens are conceded, as with unilateral ruin of the British fishing industry, 
this is said to be worthwhile on the grounds that the political unification 
is so eminently desirable. As Kingsley Amis once put it, the argument 
often amounts to saying, “Britain will suffer economically, but at least it 
will lose its independence” (or vice versa). 

Such being the case, this writer may perhaps be excused a certain 
acerbity in some of the comments that follow: a change, at least, from 
the continual labeling of British “Euroskeptics” as chauvinistic, insular, 
regressive, shortsighted, trogloditic and all the rest. 

To have one or two bad arguments advanced in its favor does not 
destroy a case. But anyone examining the arguments for and against the 
supranational Europe is struck by the preponderance of thought and evi¬ 
dence on the more skeptical side—and the absence of clarity 7 not merely in 
the public arguments but in the treaties and regulations of the federalists. 

3 . 

There is indeed what may be defined as a European culture: contribu¬ 
tions both to a great broadening of our thought on philosophical and 
political matters and to a more “aesthetic” broadening of our feeling 
about the human individual in his (or her) personal autonomy and 
social dependency. In part, this is due to the accident of proximity, and 
we have long been aware of the older Chinese philosophy, the Japanese 
biographical subtleties, the religious and erotic arts of India and so on. 

But just as Eastern thought did not translate itself into political lib¬ 
erty 7 , so the rich compost of European thought only exceptionally nour¬ 
ished the civic or consensual order. In fact, some of the products of the 
European liberation of thought were dead ends, with “dead” the opera¬ 
tive word: too many of the humanist minds of the Continent, from 

The “Europe”Idea ♦ 2j7 

Andre Chenier to Osip Mandelshtam, were victims of these fatal aber¬ 
rations. At any rate, European culture cannot be enlisted on the side of 
the European denationalized corporate state. 

The British journalist Alan Watkins once noted at a conference in 
Germany that “the more convinced supporters of the EEC among us— 
Mr David Marquand, Mr Peter Jenkins, Mr David Watt, the late John 
Mackintosh—could hardly order a glass of wine in German,” unlike 
Richard Crossman, who opposed the EEC. Similarly Edward Heath s vile 
French in favor of the EEC (“Wee, wee, noo som tooss Yuropayong”) had 
earlier been in marked contrast to Enoch Powells polished French, Italian 
and German criticisms of it in Paris, Rome and Bonn. 

Political and emotional ties with Europe will not be severed by retreat 
from the full rigors of the EU. As by no means a unique example, I myself 
lived for years in France as a child and went to university there. My trilin¬ 
gual (American) father won the Croix at Verdun in 1916 with the 65th 
Division dlnfanterie. One (English) grandfather was born in Nice; one 
grandmother was brought up in Germany, the other lived for years in 
Italy. I speak or read half a dozen European languages (three well enough 
to appear live on their TV). I have translated Pasternak and Lamartine 
and written on Stendhal and Rimbaud. I have several continental rela- 
tions-by-marriage. I lived on the Continent for a number of years. It 
might be argued that real knowledge of, even affection for, continental 
Europe makes one reject a light-minded and premature political unity. 

The cultural aspect in its literary-artistic sense hardly seems impor¬ 
tant in that context. Our cultural relations with France do not depend 
upon state or economic measures, and never have done. (Come to that, 
we did not have to federate with the Soviet Union in order to read 
Tolstoy; on the contrary, such a federation would have involved our 
being unable to read Solzhenitsyn.) Indeed Britain and France were cul¬ 
turally closer in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when they 
were not merely politically divergent but often actually at war. The Duke 
of Wellington spoke excellent French. It is precisely when special politi¬ 
cal arrangements have to be made for cultural cross-fertilization that we 
know that mutual antipathies prevail. 


Except in a very general sense, the European political culture cannot be 
regarded as a unity. We have already stressed that there is no identity of 


political and legal practice, custom and traditions, at the level now 
implied; no real basis for federalism. 

The United Kingdom is a particularly alien element in any such pro¬ 
jected synthesis. Its natural links, as Pompidou put it, are over the 
“open seas/’ to the countries that emerged from a similar legal and 
political history. The idea of the state inherited in many Continental 
countries from despotic or from revolutionary times is very different. 
Bureaucracy, regarded as rational and acceptable rather than as dubious 
and unsympathetic, is part of its essence. The French political figure 
Pierre Lellouche has analyzed his country’s problems in his La Republique 
Immobile. He finds it increasingly a model of the etatiste decline, with 
overpayment to state employees and to trade-union leaders who demand 
it. He strikingly illustrates the pow'er of the bureaucratic forces by 
pointing out that of 577 members of the National Assembly, 249 are 
“public servants” whose posts are meanwhile held for them: that is to 
say the bureaucracy dominates the very legislature! 

The current condition of “Europe” thus contains etatiste elements of 
a particularly intrusive kind. Supposedly to promote a fair marketplace, 
regulations on a large—and petty—scale have emerged, whose purpose 
is to produce a “level playing field" with such things as the absurd cen¬ 
tralization of criteria for sausages or strawberries. The leveling is not of 
unfair obstacles, merely of healthy variations. 

The EU is thus far from being a group of nations in general and 
flexible agreement, operating policies and programs agreeable to each 
other, but each suited to its own circumstances and history. On the 
contrary, it long since became excessively centralized, heavily bureau¬ 
cratized, grossly overproductive of regulation, and intrusive in one 
thousand irritating ways—as in attempts to unify, for no reason 
except uniformity for its own sake, mildly different dates of the bird¬ 
shooting season. 

Indeed, “Europe” now has or claims larger powers over its members 
in some fields (such as labor law) than the federal government in 
Washington has over the states. 

The creeping federalization of Europe has involved a series of decep¬ 
tions. The British were originally told that it was only to be a matter of 
a Common Market. The Heath government, having said it would only 
seek membership with the “wholehearted” support of the country, got 
a key proviso through the House of Commons by only three votes. The 

The “Europe” Idea 

2 59 

French referendum, at which Maastricht obtained a bare majority, was 
run with so much one-sidedness from the state media that it would have 
been invalid in most countries. 

The establishment, political, financial and industrial, in Switzerland 
urged a “Yes” vote in the 1992 referendum on Europe. They warned 
that a “No” would be economically disastrous. The Swiss electorate 
gave a “No.” The stock exchange boomed, interest rates sank, and the 
economy in general flourished as before. 

Economic predictions seldom work out. But in the Swiss case—as in 
the Danish and other cases—one may suspect that the establishmentari- 
an Europeanists were more or less consciously crying wolf simply to 
obtain a result they wanted on ideological rather than economic grounds. 

As a successful confederative democracy Switzerland offers, indeed, a 
remarkable lesson. In the eighteenth century* when the League had been 
in existence for nearly five hundred years, there was no common coinage, 
system of weights and measures, army or courts. Even when the country 
became a “federation” in 1848 and much of this was amended, foreign 
affairs becoming the concern of the federation, the cantons yet could, 
with federal approval, make nonpolitical agreements with each other 
and with foreign states. And there was no federal legislation, properly 
speaking, until 1874. A lesson to Brussels. 1 


The Maastricht and Euro phenomenon can be even more usefully com¬ 
pared with the negotiations for a federal union in the fledgling United 
States in the 1780s. There the issues were discussed in public, clearly, 
intelligently, fairly and at length; and the Constitution, though in some 
respects capable of various interpretation—and well understood as 
such—was also clear and comprehensible. Maastricht was debated, if 
that is the right word, in terms of verbalisms, slogans and vague threats; 
and this on the basis of a document both incomprehensible (even to the 
Foreign Ministries concerned) and full of misleading anodyne phrases. 

In fact, by the standards of John Jay and James Madison, recent 
European negotiations have been extremely defective, to the point in 
some cases of deception. 

It might be argued that the process of amending the U.S. 
Constitution is a difficult one. But when we turn to Europe we find 
major constitutional changes carried out on the basis of the most mea- 


ger temporary majorities, as with the French near rejection of 
Maastricht, or the Welsh near rejection of devolution. Worse still, the 
referenda are repeated (as in Denmark) until the desired result is 
obtained—then represented as irreversible! 

6 . 

But above all, “Europe” is divisive of the West, and is in effect anti- 
American. The former chief foreign policy adviser to Chancellor 
Helmut Koch, Herr Horst Teltschik, has put it more bluntly than some, 
but well expresses the moral: 

It is a good thing for every superpower to have a rival of equal strength, 
keeping the scales in balance. The history of the last few decades shows 
that there are many on this planet who favour having a counter-weight to 
the USA or an alternative. As a European, I say that a Europe in the 
process of integration should take on that role. 

Wilhelm II in his day also advocated a “United States of Europe” 
against America. 

As we have said, Europe, taken in the valid sense of a very general 
congeries of tradition, is not limited to geographical definition but 
includes the “Europes Overseas.” Without them it is not unitive but 
divisive of the true Europe. Federal Europe cuts across the deeper unity, 
and does not promote its realization. 


It is not merely that the Treaties of Rome and Maastricht are far too 
detailed and intrusive for a preliminary step towards unification; not 
even that under them interferences contrary to established British law 
are imposed on Britain, of a type both pettifogging and guaranteed to 
cause the maximum irritation for the minimum outlay. But Britain was 
also trapped by a “cultural” point. When Britain puts an economic or 
other undertaking into domestic law, it is, by and large, enforced; this is 
untrue of France, and even more untrue of Italy and Greece. On a crud¬ 
er, though less deceptive, note, an “irreversible” decision taken in 1995 
to abolish checkpoints between member countries was reversed by the 
French after five weeks. 

The EU s regulations seem on the face of it to be tight beyond all rea~ 

The “Europe”Idea ♦ 261 

son. The tactical feeling behind them, apart from the obvious calculation 
that more rules mean more bureaucrats, seems to be that the more 
numerous the bonds, the more difficult they will be to get out of But 
this ignores the fact that the more infuriating the bonds, the stronger 
the urge to be rid of them. Even genuine social improvements may be 
unacceptable if imposed. Frau Heydrich once told us (Sunday Express, 8 
August 1965) that her husband had ‘"introduced higher education and 
health insurance and raised the standard of living/’ and that the British 
had killed him because he was, in this way, winning over the Czechs. 
Similar errors are being made today. 

8 . 

We may sum up what appears to be wrong with the EU as a matter of 
general principle. That is, the facts that it ignores deeper tradition, that it 
is divisive of the West, and that its scope is based on an extremely limited 
(and in modern times obsolete) geographical conception. But even if it 
had been conceptually impeccable, we may think that its merely organi¬ 
zational defects have been well worth examining in any discussion of 
internationalist action. 

In one aspect, what all this amounts to is a thoughtless and inade¬ 
quately prepared attempt to impose a certain type of unfamiliar (and 
justifiably unfamiliar) bureaucratic style on new member countries. And 
this again implies, in the heart of the EU organization, an ignorance of, 
or ignoring of, the deepest civic traditions and habits, the cultural psy¬ 
chology of the various states. Rupert Brooke felt able, in full security, to 
think, when in Germany, of an England where “blooms the unofficial 
rose.” Even though British society has tightened and coarsened in this 
respect since then, the feeling remains general, and he was expressing a 
national rather than an idiosyncratic view. 

Again, Britain is unsuited to this form of bureaucratic regulationism 
for several reasons. One of these is, as we have said, that in Britain, 
unlike in France or Italy, laws and regulations are actually enforced. But 
this sort of corporatism is only, if at all, tolerable when there is accept¬ 
ance of fixing, or bribery, or mere effective noncompliance. These meth¬ 
ods could, perhaps, evolve in Britain, too: they have always accompanied 
corporatism, in both its totalitarian and its weaker forms. Not that 
cronyism is lacking in Anglo-America-Australia-etc.: County Durham 
under Old Labour was as pettily "‘corrupt” in this sense as New York 


under Tammany: what was not to be found was anything like the mass 
evading or ignoring of all legal requirements. 


The “European” institutions that produced both such petty nuisances as 
we have noted and such major disasters as the Common Agricultural 
Policy are seldom defended except in the most general terms. The 
European Council of heads of governments meets privately two or three 
times a year and delegates most decisions to Councils of the European 
Ministers of the various departments. These also conduct their affairs in 
secret, in effect decide policies, and pass these decisions to the European 
Commission of twenty-one appointed members, who initiate the actual 
legislation. Under them are over twenty thousand bureaucrats (with tax- 
free salaries) who manufacture regulations. Several hundred standing com¬ 
mittees meet daily. There is virtually no public responsibility all through 
this apparatus. There is no proper accounting lor the EUs $90 billion 
budget; in 1995 some $10 billion had disappeared through fraud or 
incompetence—plus a fair percentage through “error” This was public 
knowledge, but the supposedly supervisory European Parliament only 
took cognizance of it, amidst explosive scandal, in 1998—99. 

John Laughland, David Pryce-Jones and others have examined in 
more detailed fashion, and against a gradient of obstruction and decep¬ 
tion, the way in which the whole structure is repugnant to both democ¬ 
racy and common sense. 


The EU is above all in contradiction to the principles of “firm leader¬ 
ship and light rule” which have traditionally been successful in Britain 
from medieval times. Most of the Continent has a somewhat different 
tradition—though even here the British lesson may be thought to apply 
indirectly, in that British arms were able to destroy the succession of 
Sun Kings who attempted to export their system. 

The noneconomic reasons given for British identification with 
Europe are highly general, and lacking in any serious verifiability. As we 
have noted, much has been said about Britain having lost an empire, and 
so needing to project itself though a larger entity. Why? And if this 
mythical necessity were indeed valid, it is odd to compensate for empire 
by submission to a small share in a large bureaucracy. Even economical- 

The “Europe” Idea 

♦ 263 

ly, as D. Hannan points out (in his Towards 1996: Britain in a Multi-Speed 
Europe ), Britain’s natural trends are clear from such facts as that most of 
British overseas investment is in non-EU countries, as is, in spite of all 
pressures and inducements, about half of British trade. 

It is possible to point to certain economic advantages under the EU, 
though none under Maastricht or the Euro. Those that have accrued are 
precisely the ones that are compatible with no political assimilation. 
And even economically, they do not balance out the disadvantages 
incurred from other parts of the bargain. 

But even on the narrowly economic argument we may have reserva¬ 
tions about the present structure of the EU. The successes of the 
Common Market have been in its role of free-trade area (and to the 
degree that this role has not been distorted by its other concerns). One 
can envisage the EU’s evolution into an abandonment of its less success¬ 
ful or sound roles. 

In any case, let us insist that political aims must have priority. That is, 
the whole civic culture and its defense must come before any question of 
mere economic advantage. This is, of course, obvious unless to those 
subjected to so much current talk about the overriding importance ot 
the GNP. As Margaret Thatcher once said, “My country faces severe 
economic difficulties. But I sometimes feel that the political debate in 
Britain, as in Europe as a whole, is too much dominated by economic 
argument. It is too easy to be trapped in a web of economic statistics. If 
we keep our eyes fixed too long on the balance sheet, we may lose the 
habit of looking up at the ‘broad sunlit uplands’ of freedom.” 

When the idealization of “productivity” becomes the original and 
central theme of what is supposed to be a major political development 
of our time in Europe, the results are almost bound to be deplorable. 
We were originally told that Europe would unite for defense, for 
democracy, and other desirable aims. But if standards of living and 
GNP are the top priorities, and for all parties in the state, then the issue 
of defense (for example) loses a great deal of its due importance. Rome 
fell, to put it briefly, because the economically dominant classes would 
not pay for the army. 


So a federal Europe is, we are promised, just round the corner institu¬ 
tionally, though in effect bereft of such characteristics as any foreign or 


defense policy, good or bad. As to anything resembling such policies, we 
need only note European feet-dragging on the Falkland issue, German 
refusal to help in Iraq, and so on. Again, Anthony Hartley, himself long 
an official of the EEC, has written of the confusion and inanity of 
“Europe” s reaction to the war in Bosnia: 

The German proposal to recognise the republics of Croatia and Slovenia 
might have acted as a disincentive to the Serbian army, if it had been 
adopted sooner. But it was rejected, largely as a result of British and 
French opposition, and Germany rendered its own plan unworkable by 
advocating a peace-keeping force without being willing to take part in it. 
German insistence on recognition eventually prevailed, but at a time when 
it was likely to make matters worse by simultaneously disrupting the pro¬ 
posed UN peace-keeping force and infuriating the Serbian army without, 
however, providing Croatia and Slovenia with any practical guarantee of 

Why is it that on this and other issues Western Europe, with a larger 
manpower and a comparable GNP, bobs militarily in the wake of a 
weakening United States like a dinghy—a dinghy, moreover, manned by 
febrile, catatonic or mutinous sailors? As soon as one asks, one has the 
answer. Recent American weaknesses, however dangerous and depress¬ 
ing, are as nothing compared with the vacuity of the whole “European” 
defense pretension. 

There are those who feel that NATO remains adequate, if no more, 
in a military sense, to some degree compensating for political weakness, 
or at least forming a link and a commitment which mobilizes Europe 
within the present possibilities. After the Kosovo events, it clearly needs 
reordering and revivifying, with a purge of the incompetence in political 
and politico-military circles, both American and European, resulting 
from deeply institutionalized misconceptions. 

There are a number of Americans who have been strongly in favor of 
the United Kingdoms membership of the EU. One member of a recent 
administration expressed this idea to me several years ago. In fact, the 
enthusiasm was then greater than is commonly found in Britain itself. 
The idea behind it was that an ally of the United States, comparable in 
power, would emerge, and thus assume some of the responsibility which 
has, unfairly enough, weighed down so heavily and uniquely on America 
for the last few decades. Moreover, this view in Washington is often 

The “Europe” Idea ♦ 163 

associated with the notion of a federal Europe as easier to handle than a 
lot of little countries—as though multinational federation has proved 
efficacious in the Soviet and Yugoslav cases. But we may also note that 
we hear no similar insistence on the unification of the North American 
members of NATO, two countries far closer in tradition and language 
than those of “Europe”; nor is the Americo a currency to be found in 
Ottawa. Or again, we find the notion, held by some in Washington, that 
Germany should be backed because it is, or could be, the “biggest” of 
the European states, or that Germany can be “contained” through a 
“united” Europe—it might just as easily (if we must think in these cate¬ 
gories) project itself through such a Europe. 

12 . 

The European Union is, as we have said, to an important degree a 
forced creation. It constitutes a bloc hindering the development of 
world free trade, being from the global point of view a large-scale spe¬ 
cial interest (or set of special interests). And it has proved inadequate to 
finding a joint foreign policy with the rest of the democratic world, or 
even as yet within its own councils. 

The “idealism” of the sponsors of United Europe has the frequent 
faults of idealism: excessive devotion to an aim, disregard of legitimate 
public feelings, implicit falsification of particular moves. A supranation¬ 
al, though in this case nonuniversal, ideology cannot really be a substitute 
for a progressive, balanced pragmatism. As to its supposed “democratic” 
future, at a recent conference I listened with astonishment to a German 
politician urging that no one could complain of a lack of democracy in 
the forthcoming united Europe, since majorities would be required in the 
European parliament—which of course begs the whole question. (His 
previous record included leading the opposition to the stationing of U.S. 
cruise missiles in Germany at a critical period of the Cold War.) 

Through a combination of myopic calculation and commitment to a 
poorly conceived Idea, the European Unions present form is seen above 
all on the record, and on general considerations, as a poor contribution 
to a reasonable future. Meanwhile, its divisiveness of the West and its 
runaway bureaucraticism must surely be confronted as best we can not 
merely as unlovely in themselves but also as distortive—even corrup¬ 
tive—of the Wests culture. 

In Britain, France, Germany and elsewhere—but especially in 


Britain—developments in the EU are unpopular. In the general Western 
revulsion against the political establishments, this can be expected to 
show itself in pressures that will reverse the centralizing, bureaucratizing 
trend and, at a minimum, leave a Europe of sovereign states, free to 
develop their other connections. 

In any case, whatever the nature of any settlement in continental 
Europe, from the British point of view a major change of direction is 

The European Idea is both obsolete and premature. It is obsolete in 
the sense that the physical propinquity, the cartological tidiness, on 
which the whole idea so largely rests is no longer as real as it might have 
been in the days of Sully. It is premature in the sense that the political 
cultures involved are not yet similar, or assimilable, enough for what is 
intended, while there are other more closely related cultures whose con¬ 
nection should take precedence. 

Nothing in this chapter is to be taken as implying that Britain, or the 
United States, should have any but the warmest relations with the conti¬ 
nental countries. On the contrary, these would be greatly improved by 
the elimination of the negative phenomena cited here. 

In a larger perspective, a uniting of Europe is only tolerable within a 
uniting of the civilized world—and eventually of the whole world. 

Chapter XV 


A More Fruitful Unity 

(The Oceanic Perspective) 


W e face what is still a dangerous period. The forces of peace 
and progress are still in disarray. Yet all attempts to produce 
anything like a united will among the free nations have been 
at best partial or local successes, often not even that. 

Everywhere there is today a great questioning of current interna¬ 
tional arrangements, and often also of internal constitutional and 
other arrangements relevant to that broader problem. Better policies 
can yet save the situation—if the necessary political will and political 
unity are present. 

Elan and effort may seem to some degree to be exhausted, disap¬ 
pointment and disenchantment to be piling up. But we are in a position 
to consolidate, gain our second wind, and start on the next stage 
upward—or to begin a decline. 

For the greater unity of our democratic culture and the eventual ero¬ 
sion of the surviving despotisms are desirable not merely in their own 
right, but as the best prospect of emerging from the twin dangers of 
barbarism and of nuclear war which have threatened this generation and 
are still not eliminated. 

But if we need to struggle for greater unity, this is to say that the 
political arrangements of our Western culture are defective. The 
European Union is not proving to be the factor of strength expected by 
some. NATO, even at its best, is inadequate to coordinate the political 
will of our nations, and is anyhow too limited in geographical scope to 
face planetary challenges. 


Such forces of solidarity, even if shaky and often inadequate, can to 
some degree be improved by a continuous process of make and mend, 
which is the ordinary way of politics. But some of the seams appear a 
little threadbare, some of the patches a trifle worn. 

It is, in fact, a moment for regrouping. The very disintegration we see 
is producing an urge for action to create greater and more reliable forms 
of union. 

2 . 

The decline of the truly international attitude in both America and 
Europe, and the increase in local nationalism, must certainly be in part 
due to a failure of all the international bodies to present living, fresh, 
attractive alternatives. The EU, the Commonwealth, the UN, GATT, are 
all seen in their different ways as faded, exhausted, fallen from their 
original promise and inspiration. 

The internationalist idealism in the United States, in particular, was 
for a long time directed to the United Nations and its agencies. Though 
this may continue to make sense in specific fields, politically speaking 
that body shows few signs of any ability to be a supranational unifying 
force, as against a useful mechanism for international adjustment. 
Indeed, it may be argued that too strong a devotion to the United 
Nations encourages acceptance of majority decisions by dubious 
regimes of a type indefensible in principle. 

The United Nations will be seen, at best, except by those who 
remain exceptionally impressed with the potentiality of what is still 
the only global body in existence, as no more than an area where 
adjustments can (to a limited degree) be effected; a facility for certain 
international acts at a technical level; and a scene of confrontation 
and political warfare: a forum, rather than a step forward to world 
unity, at least at present. To the extent that appearances of unanimity 
are sometimes achieved, this has been largely due to a Western unwill¬ 
ingness to stick to our principles. On the other hand, it retains a 
measure of legitimization, as in the case of Kosovo. 

Britain indeed, like the United States, belongs to several international 
bodies. The United Nations—and not as part of a joint European dele¬ 
gation; the Commonwealth. It will be argued that the latter is so loose a 
grouping that little friction between British membership in it and other 
organizations is to be expected. That is true, though there is in fact 

A More Fruitful Unity ♦ 269 

some friction. And Commonwealth membership does involve certain 
obligations in principle if not in law. 

The Commonwealth still has, for many Britons, something of the 
vague idealistic appeal which the idea of the United Nations has for 
many Americans. As a means of cultural and to some extent economic 
association, many of its components are, of course, in the Western tra¬ 
dition. And there seems no reason why contact should not be main¬ 
tained on the present basis without interfering with more serious 
political reorganization of the West. 

On the other hand, the Commonwealth s unity, and indeed its con¬ 
tinuance, depends on its being loose—and only peripherally effective in 
the strictly political sense. 

When I was young, London was still '‘the great city that hath a king¬ 
dom over the kings of the earth,” if you want to put it that way. In the 
period since the British divested themselves of empire, they have stuck 
for one reason or another to horizons narrow not merely politically but 
also perhaps morally, though a European assimilation would narrow 
them further still. At any rate, the energy and experience of the British 
people now have little in the way of credible outlets in the politics of a 
world to which they clearly have a contribution to make. 

But Britain has never been or tried to be one of the two "great pow¬ 
ers.” A former permanent head of the Foreign Office (himself a 
Catholic Southern Irishman) put it to me soon after the war, when 
Britain still held a quarter of the world, that she had never been one of 
the leading military powers and had always resisted aggression as part of 
an alliance. Nowadays even the alliances seem inadequate. 

It is natural for non-Britons to think that empire, and later loss of 
empire, dominated British attitudes. However, empire at its highest only 
sporadically (and decreasingly) engaged or interested most of the popula¬ 
tion. Nor was British self-confidence, and even sense of superiority, greatly 
affected by the end of empire, (and internal problems were incomparably 
more crucial to a vast majority). Nor had it ever been the case that the 
main concerns of British foreign policy were about the old empire. The 
Pax Britannica which covered much of the world was peripheral; the battles 
that engaged the whole population and threatened the survivors were 
fought in the surrounding seas, in the air above, and on the landmass that 
starts little more than twenty miles south of Dover. And it is on that front 
that America s greatest problems, too, have been faced—and the world s. 


Nor, though the Continent now looms less urgently, has it ceased to 
be a source of bureaucracy and bureaulatry, of- rejection of the Anglo- 
American concept of law and liberty, of protectionism, of anti- 
Americanism. Britain, and America, must be vitally concerned with 
Europe. That is no reason for Britain to, or America to encourage 
Britain to, submit to or be merged in what can only be paradoxically 
described as an insular Europe. 

3 . 

If we seek something better, it seems sensible to turn to a grouping 
which would be natural rather than artificial, going with the cultural 
grain rather than cutting across it. It hardly needs saying that what 
comes to mind is some form of unity between the countries of the same 
legal and political tradition: that is to say an Association of the United 
States, the United Kingdom and Canada, with Australia and New 
Zealand and, it is to be hoped, Ireland, the nations of the Caribbean 
and the Pacific Ocean, perhaps others. Such an international grouping 
could in the long run lead to a world order, and in the short run be a 
valid entity. It will not come into being tomorrow. Here we can only 
adumbrate a future, sketch out problems and possibilities. A political 
change, a change in our peoples’ consciousness, is needed. The time 
seems ripe, our countries to be awaiting an initiative which can lead 
them out of todays inadequacies and dangers. 

Within the West, it is above all the English-speaking community 
which has over the centuries maintained the middle way between anar¬ 
chy and despotism. For most of the rest of the world, in the past as 
now, this balance has failed. (A great Chinese historian once despairing¬ 
ly wrote of his countrymen that their history alternated between peri¬ 
ods when they were enslaved and periods when they wished they were.) 

Neckers praise of the British constitution, that it was (then) the 
only government in the world “which united public strength with indi¬ 
vidual security,” is the defining point of the system we now describe 
loosely as democracy. And the same could be said of the United States. 
We are used to our inheritances. We think it natural and normal that 
we enjoy the civil and other liberties common to our countries, and we 
rightly complain about their defects or inadequacies. But our order is 
not that which has commonly or widely prevailed—as a look at the 
present-day world should be enough to remind us. We are, through the 

A More Fruitful Unity ♦ 27 / 

luck of our history, the main bastion against the various barbarisms 
and worse which have reared their heads so devastatingly in the past 
half century. Nor need we forget that in World War II those areas of 
Europe and Asia which were indeed liberated, and not turned over to a 
later despotism, were liberated in the European case largely by the 
combined arms of the United States, Britain and Canada; in the Asian 
case largely by the combined arms of the United States, Britain, 
Australia and New Zealand. 

In spite of everything that has been said against it, of all the 
announcements of its demise, the “special relationship” between 
Britain and the United States remains. There are, indeed, misunder¬ 
standings; there are those in each country concerned to exacerbate 
these. But at a profounder level, the word “foreigner” is never used in 
Britain of an American (and, in the United States, even at the Vietnam 
nadir of disillusion and isolationism, Gallup polls showed Britain as 
the only overseas country to which a majority of Americans would still 
send troops for defense against “Communist-backed forces”). 
Meanwhile, Britons emigrate to California rather than Calabria, to 
Vancouver rather than Valencia. 

The Declaration of Independence speaks only of dissolving the 
then political connection with Britain. As an American historian com¬ 
ments, “No one in the new nation, high or low, expressed a desire to 
repudiate the social, intellectual, cultural, and moral heritage” (Arthur 
Schlesinger, Sr., in The Birth of the Nation ). Moreover, as another 
remarked, “It is not even certain that the political separation of Britain 
and America which took place in the eighteenth century is a permanent 
one” (Professor John R. Alden in the introduction to his A History of the 
American Revolution ). 

The English-speaking countries have diverged indeed, but not too 
much. It is true that, even within our tradition, in many parts of the 
world there is lost ground to be made up. Since the establishment of the 
EEC, for example, in both Australia and New Zealand we have seen not 
only a disruption of economic links formerly existing between them 
and Britain but a concurrent political alienation, though not yet to the 
point of resentment on the decisive scale. 

The sentiment for greater unity remains, but it lacks a program: the 
high prospects of a grand Association could supply this. 

What I am thus putting forward is a flexibly conceived Association 


of the countries of the same language, legal tradition and general politi¬ 
cal culture, as the natural way in which the greater unity can develop: a 
unity that matches our history and feelings, and is not an artificial cut¬ 
ting across them. 


The difficulties of bringing these countries into Association are clearly 
great. But they are, in principle, petty difficulties, a tangle of detailed 
interests, thoughts and habits. Though of course there are many differ¬ 
ences, the situation resembles that which faced the American Federalists 
in the 1780s. At the lower level, everything was against them. It seemed 
almost impossible that, in spite of their common heritage of law and lib¬ 
erty, a general unity could prevail in thirteen democracies over so various 
and so tangled a mesh of legalisms and local interests as then existed. 

The weaknesses, the disintegrative tendencies of the United States in 
the period immediately following the Revolution were in fact obvious, 
and they provided material for countless Cassandras. But a man like 
Benjamin Franklin could see through this to the basic strength. And, 
just as it was precisely the crumbling of the old American confedera¬ 
tion, the backbiting and worse between the states, that induced the 
Federalists to make the effort for unity 7 , so our own problems present 
the same sort of challenge. 

It is a mistake to imagine that only revolutionaries and Utopians are 
capable of strong and radical action. Where great changes are needed in 
the interest of stability and progress, men of vision have not seldom 
been available to press them through. In the 1780s events in America 
were not allowed to drift on in an unsatisfactory fashion, in the direction 
of disintegration and impoverishment. The difficulties were diagnosed 
and opportunities seized. 

It is surprising, too, to find it argued that the distances separating 
North America, Australasia and Britain are too great for political union; 
and to have a unity 7 of Britain and Continental Western Europe urged 
(as we have noted) on grounds of geography. Britain’s political links 
have for centuries been across the oceans. 

But in any case the argument by distance fails. The thousand-mile 
spread of the American States in the eighteenth century was, in fact, 
effectively far greater than the twelve-thousand-mile spread of the coun- 

A More Fruitful Unity ♦ 273 

tries of our culture today. Caesar Rodney rode through the whole night 
to arrive in Philadelphia to cast the vital vote for the Declaration of 
Independence. Today a helicopter would have got him there in a fraction 
of the time. At that period it took two days to get from New York 
merely to Philadelphia by John Barnells “flying machine,” and five to 
Baltimore; while other connections were worse still. The alternative sea 
routes took nearly as long and were even more subject to delays. 
Nowadays, statesmen and businessmen can get to Canberra in much 
shorter times, while communication by telephone and so on is an addi¬ 
tional effective shrinker of space. 

Again, the British had the closest political connections right across 
the globe to New Zealand in the farthest antipodes at a time when it 
took weeks and months to maintain contact. Now, when London can 
speak to Auckland or Adelaide instantaneously, when they can be 
reached in person in a couple of days, the British are told that their nat¬ 
ural political contacts are with Europe. Europe is indeed nearer, in the 
crudest physical sense, but ours is precisely the era when travel and com¬ 
munication have made this ever less and less significant for practical 
purposes. Moreover, this has been increasingly so. In the past twenty 
years the time of travel between mid-London and mid-Washington has 
decreased far more rapidly in proportion than that between mid- 
London and mid-Rome. 

The obstacles of geography are in fact exaggerated. What about the 
obstacles of nationalism and ethnicity? 

First, there is no racial implication in the fact that our political cul¬ 
ture is the most advanced, and the most promising. This style of politi¬ 
cal and civic organization happens to have emerged and to have survived 
most importantly in Britain, and to have spread most widely from that 
center. This historical chance, needless to say, does not mean that our 
form of society is exclusive in principle, or attached to any particular 
genetic group. 

Great Britain itself has several “nationalities.” No one who knows the 
English, Scots and Welsh could believe for a moment that they are really 
much the same. The cultural, temperamental and other differences are 
very great indeed. But the political and civic tradition, the elements of 
unity, transcend them. 

There are, of course, nationalist movements in Scotland and Wales— 

274 ♦ facing the consequences 

to some extent as a well-founded revulsion against state centralization. 
We now have major constitutional devolution. But there are strong argu¬ 
ments against extreme nationalisms which have so far prevailed upon the 
electorate (and it does seem a little dated to—as a Scottish non- 
Nationalist allegedly put it—urge that Scotland take her rightful place 
at the United Nations between Saudi Arabia and Senegal). Never¬ 
theless, it is arguable that Scotland and Wales might feel a richer liberty 
within a larger Association. 

If the British population is itself fairly heterogeneous, the American 
is more so. In their economic interests and their social structure, even 
the original United States were, as we have said, a variegated lot. As 
Thomas Paine pointed out, the populace were by no means entirely of 
the same stock: even if the black element was then largely excluded from 
the civic culture, the New York Dutch, the Germans and Swedes in the 
middle colonies, the important Huguenot element, let alone the Irish, 
were far from negligible—and the Germans were about a tenth of the 
population, the Scotch-Irish about three quarters of a tenth. 

What the colonies had in common was first, of course, a main lan¬ 
guage, but second and more important, the institutions and habits of 
the legal and civic culture. 

Some American and other writers have taken the view that "national 
identity” in the sense in which it is found among the European peoples 
is to some degree weaker in the United States; and that, for this reason, 
there is a tendency to substitute general principles or supposed general 
principles for the deeper and less conscious bonds. 

It may be true that some such substitution takes place, at least in cer¬ 
tain minds. But it would be hard to assert that an American identity, 
starting in Revolutionary times, did not get a firm hold. The argument 
that the huge influx of immigrants from various nations to some degree 
diluted this may appear plausible on the surface. But to what degree? The 
astonishing thing, until very recently at least, was the effectiveness of the 
“melting pot.” But the fact of maintaining the older national, religious or 
cultural traditions of the countries from which the Americans derive (or 
in recent years of a notable return to them) need not in any way affect 
the general national feeling. For in the first place, with us the state does 
not aspire to be the center of all public aspiration. We can include com¬ 
munities of different internal loyalties. In Britain loyalty 7 to a Scottish 
clan, or to the Jewish community, does not in anv way compete with loy- 

A More Fruitful Unity ♦ lyj 

alty to the country. America’s ethnic diversity, in tact, may yet promote 
greater national pride. 

It was said of Disraeli, “At but one remove by birth from Southern 
Europe and the East, he was an Englishman in nothing but his devotion 
to England and his solicitude for her honour and prosperity/' and this 
would apply to many originating outside our culture, but temperamen¬ 
tally within it. Some of the most prominent and devoted adherents of 
the ideas involved—statesmen, judges and others—have been immi¬ 
grants, like Felix Frankfurter, or been black, like leaders in both the 
United States and the Caribbean countries—and elsewhere. Some 30 
million people of African descent have English as their native tongue, 
and generally regard our political tradition as their own. Most are in the 
United States, but they include majorities or important minorities in a 
number of independent states, largely in the Caribbean, together with a 
major community in Britain. No doubt there are racial problems in 
most of our countries. But more decisively, polls in the United States 
show that a great majority of blacks see their country as worth defend¬ 
ing. It would be up to the Association to give even greater reason for, 
and scope to, such feelings. 


Meanwhile, let us again assert that the links between the various coun¬ 
tries of which we speak are not merely historical—though here, too, the 
connection is powerful. More powerful yet is the commitment to its con¬ 
cepts of Law and Liberty, in a way that is not shared to anything like the 
same degree by other countries within the general democratic sphere. 

Then again, the closer our various countries are brought together 
politically, the more we can learn even as regards our internal arrange¬ 
ments from our fellow confederates. We all face economic and social 
and legal problems, and it is reasonably clear that in most cases some 
could have learned from the previous experience of others—and didn't. 
A closer means of direct consultation might be helpful. Formal differ¬ 
ences in the legal systems as such are no impediment. The Scottish and 
English legal systems within the United Kingdom are greatly different; 
while in the United States Louisiana’s laws differ importantly from 
those of the rest of the country. Again, in Britain, Canada and the 
United States there are constitutional issues now coming to the fore, 
and some of them are ones in which the experience of one side of the 


Atlantic is directly instructive to the other. In Canada such questions 
affect the whole future of the federation. Such problems might in the 
long run be easier to cope with under a larger union. 

6 . 

The United States nowadays has less wish to undertake the enormously 
preponderant role in the Wests foreign and military arrangements and 
responsibilities which has fallen to it since the war. A unity with the 
other countries of the same tradition would both ease the American 
task and spread some of the American responsibility. Countries that 
have, however unintendingly, relied on the Americans, and themselves 
been inadequately faced with either the responsibilities or the decisions 
of world power, should be brought into the central processes. 

But it is not only that the United States, still the most powerful of 
democracies, may no longer feel capable of bearing the burden on its 
own. Countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia have 
the skills, but they do not have the power, to act wholly autonomously 
with any but local effect. Yet their interests, too, are deeply involved in 
the world scene, and there are contributions they can make far outside 
their own areas which could help the whole free community. A recent 
American tendency to make unilateral decisions, and then complain that 
its allies are not backing it up, is relevant to the present world troubles. 
But unilateral American actions are of less benefit to the United States 
itself than if they had been properly concerted. On the other hand, the 
Americans may in turn rightly complain that it is possible for their allies 
to commit them, against their own judgment. The power of the small 
states to involve the larger ones has been illustrated many times over. 
Under closer Association, countries such as the United Kingdom, which 
have not seldom felt themselves committed by American decisions tend¬ 
ing to the unilateral, would fully share not only the responsibility of 
decision but also that of military or other action. 

Nor is it true that—as some British left-wing circles would certainly 
declare—the United Kingdom would come more directly under 
American control or influence. Precisely the opposite, it would no longer 
find major confrontations, or lesser decisions on weaponry or local com¬ 
mitment, taken without its participation. At present it is possible for a 
confrontation to occur in many parts of the world in which, though 
some sort of formal consultation might take place, decisions would in 

A More Fruitful Unity ♦ lyy 

practice be taken in Washington, which would inevitably commit Britain 
too; or alternatively the United States would have to face a crisis alone— 
to the benefit, in either case, of none of us. Nor, in stressing the negative 
side, should we forget that in the Iraq confrontations in 1998 it was 
Britain—and Canada and Australia—that supported the United States: 
which is to say that a de facto trend to united policies already exists. The 
policies themselves are, of course, open to severe criticism. 


In the whole stretch of the British Isles, from Muckle Flugga to La 
Maitresse, the feeling is that Britain's internal difficulties (as well as 
international) are refractory enough to call for some quite new initia¬ 
tive—such as might and should emerge in a greater union. 

On Australia and New Zealand, there is little to say that is not obvi¬ 
ous. As with Britain in Europe, the defense of the Southwest Pacific 
depends on the support of the United States—or, in the broader view, 
of the whole Anglo-Oceanic community. In two wars Australia and 
New Zealand militantly supported their European progenitor, the 
United Kingdom. The fissiparous tendencies we have noted above are 
largely to be blamed on isolationist moods and even more on the 
“European" aberrations of the British. At any rate, there are now anti- 
British feelings in both countries—and, in Australia, republicanism. All 
the same, both countries still send their elites predominantly to 
London. A removal of Londons disastrous anti-antipodean (and now 
anti-Caribbean) food-import policies must, in time, ease resentments. 
And, in spite of a routine anti-Americanism of the worldwide type, a 
general realization of the necessity in Pacific circumstances of the 
American alliance predominates. 

In North America, one profound constitutional change has already 
taken place this century by public vote. This was in 1949 when 
Newfoundland, then an independent Dominion, united with Canada 
after a plebiscite. As to the present Canadian situation, some polls have 
shown that in the case of a secession by Quebec, majorities in a number 
of the western provinces might wish actually to accede to the United 
States. Resistance to such an extension simply of the United States is 
nevertheless strong. On an Association basis, the former trend might be 
muted and the latter still largely satisfied. 

If Quebec were indeed to secede, clearly the whole situation in 


Canada—and hence in the relations between the United States and all 
the ‘‘British” countries—would become fluid. In such a situation it 
would be necessary for any real statesman to have his policies ready. But 
even apart from that (and one would naturally hope that a whole 
Canada might play its part in an Association), it is plain that minds are 
ripe for broader solutions. 

It would be premature to consider in any detail many of the prob¬ 
lems of the Caribbean or Pacific worlds: the position of Puerto Rico, 
for example, is already anomalous—and why not? Yet, membership in 
the Association of the Caribbean and Pacific and other island territories 
that are linked in a political, historical tradition is a desirable prospect. 

In an Association one of whose principles would be a repudiation of 
racial prejudices, and acceptance of the will of populations everywhere, 
the membership of these “ex-colonial” countries would, as we have sug¬ 
gested, be morally significant. The considerable non-Caucasian popula¬ 
tion of the United States and the United Kingdom—and to a lesser 
extent of New Zealand, Australia and even Canada—should in any case 
be represented in the delegations to any Intercontinental Congress. And 
one would expect the active cooperation of Jamaica and other states of 
the Caribbean—a true area of black power—to have a sensible effect in 
its turn upon both white and black in the United States and England. At 
this level of state cooperation, Association decisions might be expected 
to carry special weight—unlike those of majority “white” governments' 
vague vote-catching, or of the rhetorical antagonisms of the United 
Nations. In the Caribbean, tendencies to local nationalism and even 
racialism are opposed by powerful forces. The strengthening of friendly 
links with the other countries of similar political civic and linguistic tra¬ 
dition, giving Jamaica, Trinidad and the others a real say in the policies of 
the whole community, must fortify this spirit. 

In the Pacific, too, there is a range of these island states whose inhab¬ 
itants have, through temperamental sympathy and attitude, accepted the 
Western consensual tradition—or rather melded their own earlier and 
similar traditions with ours. The peoples of Tonga, Fiji, Western Samoa, 
Tuvalu, Kiribati, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, the three 
territories of Micronesia, as also the residual British, American and 
New Zealand territories proper, all accept the principles for which we 
stand. And when it comes to detail, one can see in this greater unity 
such adjustments as—in effect—a reunification of Samoa. Over the 

A More Fruitful Unity ♦ 279 

whole area, membership in the Association could mediate not too 
obtrusive local unities, some of them already in place. 

To turn to the European area of the Association, it is to be hoped on a 
number of grounds that the Republic of Ireland might also accede, even 
if not at once. The Irish tradition of neutrality would, it is true, tell 
against this—even though a partial, nonmilitary association status might 
possibly form a temporary bridge. If so, the great Irish administrative and 
military talent, once available to the British Empire, would again have a 
role on the world stage. Ireland, the Irish both North and South, and 
their problems, constitute a special case. Here it would only be appropri¬ 
ate to say that their contributions to both Britain and America have been 
great and that they could easily find a valuable place in our Association. 

8 . 

Could Britain be a member both of such an Association and of the 
European Union? Be that part of the Association which is also in 
Europe, or, looked at another way, that part of the EU which is also in 
an outside Association? Could Britain remain in a looser EU, serving in 
rather different form in the way a Labour Foreign Secretary, Dennis 
Healey, urged—as “America s Trojan horse”? 

It must be allowed that a revision of the Treaties of Rome and 
Maastricht—whose main general defect is in any case an excessive 
spelling out of detail—would probably be required, or at least a suitable 
interpretation hammered out on certain points. For if we accept that 
the EU in its present form is psychologically and politically premature, 
the only available solution (short of total secession, which would at 
least be preferable to total acceptance) must be in the first place to 
loosen it institutionally. But there should be no insoluble problem. 
When we consider the constitutional arrangements that are to be found 
throughout history, we discover ways in which ingenuity has provided a 
diversity of precedents. 

In feudal times proper, all sorts of variations were seen, with the 
English king being a vassal of France for territories like Aquitaine, but 
for other purposes sovereign on equal terms. More recently, some of the 
relationships established within the old Indian Empire showed similar 
flexibility. Elsewhere, too, an extraordinary array of modes of political 
association can be found, suggesting that in a reasonably loose and 
undogmatic unity various types of associate membership, treaties of pro- 


tection, observer status and so forth can be devised for particular coun¬ 
tries. In the Holy Roman Empire a number of states were partly in and 
partly out, so that the Hapsburg rulers were in it in respect of Austria, 
but not in their capacity as Kings of Hungary, and the Hohenzollerns 
were in as Electors of Brandenburg and out as Kings of Prussia. It con¬ 
tained Free Cities, Prince-Bishoprics and hereditary Monarchies, with 
the Emperor elected by the heads of the leading states. In the German 
Confederation (1815—66), similarly, large states outside, with small 
properties inside the boundaries, were represented—for example, the 
Netherlands (by Luxemburg) and Denmark (by Holstein). 

Many modern arrangements demonstrate a similar flexibility, far from 
what perfect logic would seem to require. India is a Republic and a mem¬ 
ber of an admittedly ramshackle Commonwealth of which a Queen is 
Head. More practically, Malaysia is a federation of monarchies and non¬ 
monarchies, of which the Head of State is one of the monarchs. 
Andorra had as one of its coprinces the President of France. Federations 
within federations are known. Switzerland has “half cantons.” 


If we are not yet agreed on specific solutions, there is increasing accord 
on the nature of the problems, and on the failure of previous diagnosis 
and treatment. 

It would be premature to do more than outline the perspectives. And 
though it would not yet be appropriate to define the precise degree of 
unity institutionalized in such a grouping, the word “Association” 
implies—let us say—something weaker than a federation, but stronger 
than an alliance. It is not that the reins would be looser than in the EU, 
but that there would be no reins. 

This proposal, it may be thought, combines grandeur with modest} 7 . 
It presents advantages and attractions to both left and right; to both 
nationalist and internationalist; to the United States, the United 
Kingdom and the other countries concerned. 

It is a move that can carry the whole middle ground. It falls neither 
into the narrowness of petty and local economic interests nor into the 
vacuity of utopian fantasy. 

It cannot be attained without a serious political struggle. But such a 
struggle would itself be revivifying—as in the United States in the 

A More Fruitful Unity ♦ z8l 

Imagination will be needed, as it always is, to effect such a great 
political transformation. Against it will be ranged, not merely opposi¬ 
tion of various sorts but also the forces of apathy, and even more of 
established habit and interest. 

10 . 

Evolution to a united and peaceful world is not something that can be 
undertaken in an abstract way. Those like H. G. Wells, who simply advo¬ 
cated a World State, seemed to imagine that the mere concept was so 
obviously demanded by progress and efficiency that intelligent people 
everywhere would accept it and then, in one way or another, impose it. 

The natural evolution would be, as we have said, a progressive uniting 
of the traditional civic cultures, attracting to that established center cul¬ 
tures less similar but converging in their direction, and finally cultures 
initially highly alien but, over a longer or shorter period, evolving their 
own forms of civic order. 

Generally speaking, closer integration of the (in the main) English- 
speaking countries, can create a center of power attractive to the other 
countries with a democratic tradition and form the basis for a yet 
broader political unity in the longer run. And this in turn could eventu¬ 
ally be the foundation for a full unity of a democratized world. 

For from the point of view of the world at large, we can view a 
greater Association both in the short and in the long term. In the short 
term in defining political civilization, in opening a great part of the 
world to joint solutions of economic and social problems; and in the 
long term in securing world peace, transforming the politically back¬ 
ward areas, and creating the conditions for a genuine world community. 

A unity of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Aus¬ 
tralia and New Zealand would itself be a viable hyperpower and, if no 
more could be done in the first phase, would suffice for a start. But it is 
to be hoped that all, or as many as possible, of the other countries hav¬ 
ing partly or entirely the same system might again conjoin at a more 
fruitful level. 

A closer Association of the United States and Britain and the other 
democracies of our tradition would not affect the principles of NATO. 
On the contrary, some such means of infusing a new spirit seem neces¬ 
sary. For if NATO is to avoid the two perils of European apathy or 
parochialism and American disenchantment, the best way would be to 


have at least Britain committed unreservedly to a joint global policy and 
strategy, over which she would have more say than at present and in 
which she would equally undertake greater responsibility. On the one 
hand, this would undermine any American isolationist tendencies; and 
on the other, the fact of American involvement in this new and expan¬ 
sive manner would offer the shakier allies on the European continent a 
guarantee and a rallying point from which they could develop fresh 
strength and morale. 

It can be argued that France and Germany, for example, will be alien¬ 
ated from the Oceanic countries and NATO by such an “English- 
speaking” union. I believe this to be false. It is the present unsatisfactory 
arrangements that have encouraged or allowed tergiversation in Berlin 
and Paris. These have most obviously not been stopped by membership 
of NATO or the EU. And GATT, again fine in principle, is in practice 
hampered by various narrow interests—particularly those of the 
“Europeans"—acting, almost always, contrary to British interests. 

Germany, Italy, Spain, even France have in generations not long past 
seen highly disturbing developments, to say the least of it. It is true that 
democracy has in a general way maintained or reestablished itself 
against the various threats in most of these areas. And all help possible 
should be given to carry this yet further. But the notion that British 
membership in Europe must certainly have this effect seems dubious. 
One can argue that greater influence could be brought to bear from an 
“Oceanic” Association, but also that, to look at it another way, Britain 
could mediate the Associations policies towards Europe. 

Judged in this deeper perspective, then, the EU looms small: either as 
an irrelevance that can be adapted and encysted, or as an aberration that 
can be corrected. None of what has been said here is to denigrate all the 
hopes and the energies behind the EU. The EU itself, in the period 
since Britain’s entry, can hardly be said to have stood up to the strains. It 
is now, of course, unpopular in Britain, though not only in Britain. And 
there seems no doubt as to the results of a poll put in the following 
form: “Given the choice, Britain’s future will be with the United States, 
Australia, Canada and New Zealand—or with Europe?” Many EU sup¬ 
porters are not perhaps necessarily wedded to the European solution as 
such; but they had it presented to them as the only way to keep Britain 
from becoming an isolated backwater. Our point here is that the scope 
and enthusiasm behind the drive for Europe might readily be diverted 

A More Fruitful Unity ♦ 2S3 

towards the even broader horizons of the Association. 

It will be noted, too, that our scheme for an Association provides a 
larger unity than the narrower European Union; but that it also (being of 
a more organic type) needs less rigidity, and so gives more scope to the 
lesser local unities and their interests. The refusal of the EEC, already in 
July 1971, to make special provision for the Isle ol Man and the Channel 
Islands (whose voters were not consulted at all in the negotiations) may 
be compared with the more flexible arrangements we have in mind. 

But above all, far from the struggle for a great “Oceanic” Association 
implying any weakening of ties with the less powerful European and 
other allies, it should be accompanied by, and indeed imply, an energetic 
effort to strengthen the world alliance between democratic states. It is 
clear that the other forms, even if partially effective, are not in them¬ 
selves adequate. They may continue to perform useful functions in lim¬ 
ited spheres, encouraged rather than disrupted by the greater power of 
the Association. 


But suppose that the often stated aim of some “Europeans” to create a 
political and economic and even a military force roughly equal in power 
to the United States were feasible. This proposed division of the West 
into two more or less balanced centers or power is far more radically 
divisive, for numerical reasons alone, than a proposal greatly to strength¬ 
en the center. Confidence and unity in such a grouping as the 
Association should in fact revive rather than reduce the morale of other 
allies in Europe—and Japan. Such a reconcentration of power, far from 
repelling the other democracies, would be a center, a fulcrum. And simi¬ 
larly, far from a large concentration of political liberty in such an 
Association being a barrier to its arising elsewhere, such a central and 
easily deployed strength would form a rallying point for an eventual tri¬ 
umph of world democracy. For a strengthening of what is recognizably 
the core of the alliance automatically implies—and in practice has 
always gone with—a reinforcement of the centripetal element through¬ 
out the democratic world. Europe would be forced to come to terms 
rather than compete. And if the EU has proved to be in the interests of 
neither the United States nor Britain, and is proving a handicap to the 
development of worldwide policies for the democratic cultures, a differ¬ 
ent approach is clearly required from the Europeans themselves. 


The perspective of an Association opens up eventually to a free mar¬ 
ket of the entire “Western” world. The EU on the other hand, is more 
or less openly concerned with a narrower autarchy in competition with 
the United States. 

There seems to be several things to be learned from the experience of 
the EU. That is, quite apart from the creation of a Little Europe mentality. 
The mere mechanics of the supposed unification of Western Europe were 
wrongly conceived, and are certainly a lesson to any greater association. 

First, as we have said, it was believed that economic unity could or 
should precede and produce political unity. But in general, as we have 
said, the broader and higher attitudes that constitute politics must 
always prevail; or, to put it another way, the economy can only be a 
component, important but never decisive, of the political. Of course it 
goes without saying that certain minimum economic matters must be 
adequately dealt with or a polity will collapse. That is far from making 
economics determinative—just as in a house the plumbing must work, 
but equally none of us would choose a house for its plumbing. 

Economically, though, such an Association as we speak of, or at least 
its North Atlantic component, is not a new idea. A respectable school 
of economists has long preferred the Transatlantic option on economic 
grounds alone. Douglas Jay, President of the Board ol Trade in the 
Labour government from 1964 to 1967, urged instead of the EEC the 
idea of a North Atlantic Free Trade Association. In his original concep¬ 
tion, this would have consisted of Canada, the United Kingdom, the 
United States and the old European Free Trade Area. As he pointed out 
as early as 1968, this would have saved Britain from the expensive food 
policy of the Common Market and would have provided a duty-free 
market without rises in export costs. He noted also the advantages to 
Canada, at the time the country with the smallest tariff-free market of 
any leading industrial nation. 

In America, Congress was told by President Lyndon Johnsons Trade 
Representative, William Ross, that the project was receiving serious con¬ 
sideration. A conference at New York University between members of 
the business, trade-union and university worlds of Britain, Canada and 
the United States, including United Kingdom Trade Union leader 
Frank Cousins, the economist Roy Harrod, Senator Javits and Professor 
Schlesinger, and representatives of the Canadian Conservative and 

A More Fruitful Unity ♦ l8j 

Liberal Parties, welcomed the proposal. This particular initiative—this 
particular variant—did not lead to results, but at the very least it shows 
a potentially receptive mood to the idea of a closer approach in the 
direction we have suggested. 

And now we see the New Atlantic Initiative, supported by a far 
broader spectrum of statesmen and thinkers in Europe and North 
America. At the same time, American political thinking in this direction 
emerged again in 1998 with the suggestion from several Washington 
sources that the United Kingdom might join NAFTA. To say that there 
will be difficulties and obstacles is to state the obvious. If the process is 
worth pursuing, they can be overcome, however striking some of them 
may appear at a given moment. 

Most of these initiatives have been in terms of a joint Euro-American 
approach. But this is hardly possible until the grotesque rigors of the 
European Union are abated. Meanwhile, as we have suggested, a British 
move into a transatlantic, or rather transoceanic, association—while 
retaining membership in a less overweening “Europe”—could prepare the 
way for a later coherence of the entire “West,” and its allies elsewhere. 

We have both the physical power and the moral prestige first to pre¬ 
serve the precarious peace of the world and, for the longer term, be the 
focus and example for a liberalization of the problem areas in their 
turn, and a genuine world community. If we grasp our opportunity, we 
may be in a position, to paraphrase the Younger Pitt, to save ourselves 
by our exertions and the world by our example. 

12 . 

At present we can only speak of a change of direction, and anything like 
a realization of the suggested Association will take time. On the other 
hand, the public in all the Western countries, including the United 
States and Britain, is in a readily understandable mood of resentment at, 
and rejection of, bankrupt policies—and not only in international 
affairs. We seem, in fact, to be at one of those moods seen later as the 
occasions of radical change. 

Arrangements that might result from the long and complex negotia¬ 
tions necessary before an Association could in fact be formed might dif¬ 
fer in all sorts of inessential ways from any first sketch, as in all such 
cases. The union of the American colonies that was proposed, and unan- 


imously accepted, at the Albany Congress of six of them in 1754, envis¬ 
aged a President-General, appointed by the British Crown, and a Grand 
Council elected by the colonial assemblies, with power to raise troops 
and fleets and levy taxes and duties. This was premature, and things had 
changed by the time a union was actually effected. But it was the basis of 
much that followed—and within a comparatively short time. 

The precise detail of closer arrangements between our component 
states, at a given stage, seems less important than making some progress 
in establishing the direction in which we are to move. Once started, the 
momentum toward closer union would carry us forward, though at a 
rate one cannot determine in the abstract. 

13 . 

There will, of course, be opposition to these proposals. It will come 
from various sources. In some Third World countries, the cry of neo¬ 
colonialism or neo-imperialism will go up. Nor should we underestimate 
its effect—even though there is also much sentiment for closer collabora¬ 
tion with the former colonial powers: indeed the two feelings may be 
found in the same person. We must do everything to avoid the appear¬ 
ance, but even more any trace of the reality, of such a phenomenon. 

In Britain, those of the left who wish to use British political insulari¬ 
ty to turn the island into a sort of fogbound Cuba will see our sugges¬ 
tions as something that will make their schemes impossible. 

Then there are many who have emotional capital invested in present 
arrangements, in particular the extreme “Europeans” in Britain. And 
some have institutional or career capital invested, too. There will be 
those who point to the difficulties of such a change. But of course all 
great advances have difficulties to overcome. 

Chauvinist Americans, on the other hand, will deplore it as a method 
of impeding Americas ability to act independently. And a major block 
is the existence of protectionist instincts in the United States. But if 
there are protectionist moods in America, there are also moods favoring 
broader international trade and competition. Moreover, to argue thus is 
simply to present the problem. There were narrow States' Rights moods, 
and interests too, in New York when Hamilton and Jay were conducting 
their campaign. 

A More Fruitful Unity ♦ 18 7 


Formally speaking, the actual powers devolved to an Association, at any 
rate until a further stage may be reached, will be small. No derogation 
of sovereignty will arise. The task will be coordination and cooperation, 
to the extent that is not so much ideal as necessary. 

Sovereignty is in many cases not susceptible of clear-cut definition, 
particularly when states associate in any way. Each of the United States is 
still technically speaking sovereign, and the degree of that sovereignty was 
not settled until ninety years after the Declaration of Independence. 
Originally, the Union, let alone the preceding Confederation of that peri¬ 
od, was a coming together for reasons both practical and ideal, on the 
basis of what pragmatic politicians felt could be agreed to at the time. 
That is, a good deal was left undefined, or inadequately defined, to be 
developed by later generations. With us, too, instead of being faced with 
the vast set pieces of the Treaties of Rome and Maastricht and just argu¬ 
ing for adjustment within them (as who should say, do loosen this strait- 
jacket at the elbows), there would be a period of flexible negotiation with 
no preconceptions about the stage to be reached within a given time. 

At every point, negotiators would be committed, having learned from 
the errors of "‘Europe,’” to oppose bureaucratization, to avoid regula- 
tionism, above all to insist on—what “Europe" paid lip service to but 
betrayed—the true principles of subsidiarity. 

It is not my purpose to lay down the ways in which this change might 
come about. Clearly, a political and publicity movement in our countries 
would have to develop. One can envisage a start made by committees of 
politicians from all the democratic parties, and of others in public life, 
emerging from the New Atlantic Initiative, which has already opened 
serious and urgent debate among all those concerned with the problem 
of Western unity in the face of the dangers of the present day. 

In fact, the new perspectives of an Association constituting at once a 
plausible internationalism and (in a sense) a broader nationalism, with 
promise in every sphere, should prove a new stimulus to those who seek 
a better future. 

The time is perhaps not too far off for something like a Declaration 
of Interdependence, and the election of an Intercontinental Congress— 
with, from the start, no more than a small and flexible permanent staff 
and a coordination of foreign, military and trade policy. We can mean- 


while present the substance of such an arrangement—one that has 
breadth and scope and yet avoids the spurious breadth and scope of 
dogma or artificiality. 

And similarly, let us repeat, far from a large concentration of political 
liberty in such an Association being a barrier to its arising elsewhere, 
such a central and easily deployed strength would form a rallying point 
for an eventual triumph of world democracy. 

The internationalist idea and internationalist ideas in general may thus 
be channeled into the construction of a community with a genuine cul¬ 
tural unity and, though not world-embracing, fit to act as a model and 
center from which the eventual progress of the whole world may proceed; 
for as President Kennedy said in his message to Congress on 11 January 
1962, “Our basic goal remains the same: a peaceful world community of 
free and independent states—free to choose their own future and their 
own system, as long as it does not threaten the freedom of others.” 

In that context, what is here proposed is not a solution so much as 
a direction. It is one that is in accord with both our reasons and our 



I am well aware that there is much more to be said on the themes I 
have covered; and that there are important issues which I have 
passed by, or barely touched on. 

In the foreign policy field, I have considered little more than the 
question of the unity of the civic culture in facing such problems. But, 
of course, that unity is needed today above all because of the threats to 
present world peace and future world survival and progress. It would 
not be within the scope of this book to present solutions to the partic¬ 
ular perils facing us. However, it would be inappropriate to finish with¬ 
out a brief rehearsal of the main cruxes. 

There are major countries equipped with large nuclear arsenals which 
are, or may be, under the control of leaderships hostile to the West to one 
degree or another and not easily to be included in a world order. There 
are, too, smaller pirate states with at least some nuclear (or biological or 
other) weaponry, and others that have that potential. This may obviously 
bring about major crises and immense destruction if not coped with by 
clear understanding backed by determined countermeasures. Some of 
these states support international terrorist activity, itself bad enough, but 
it also implies terrorist access to nuclear (or bacteriological, etc.) weapons. 

And the West may not, though it may and should, maintain and 
develop the requisite military as well as political deterrence. This must 
mean strong investment both in the necessary research and in its deploy¬ 
ment as weaponry (it is no good being ahead in the research if others 
develop the actual weaponry first). Opposition to this is inherent 
among those who believe, or feel, that arms are deplorable in them¬ 
selves—a natural feeling, but the usual result is not to disarm complete- 


ly but to reduce arms (and research) to a dangerously low level—though 
it used to be said in a similar context that nothing was as expensive as 
the second best navy. This is an absolutely crucial issue. 

2 . 

Russian foreign policy even before Kosovo seemed based on rallying 
states hostile to the Western world into a sort of reactionary alliance. 
This is perhaps to put it strongly, and other options are being kept open 
in Moscow. This troublesome attitude is not the same as the ideology- 
driven unappeasable hostility of Soviet times. All the same, it has its 

Russians based it in part on the expansion of NATO. It is clear that 
this expansion was not properly thought out; and if it were still in the 
idea stage, it would be sensible to oppose it. But while the plans to 
expand infuriated many in the political class in Russia, to oppose it 
once launched would have been to signal to the more chauvinist of 
them that they could thwart Western designs, and merely to encourage 
such attitudes. (I find that this view—that we had no need to do it, but 
that it would be even worse to abandon it once started—is widely held 
in Western informed circles, both left and right.) 

Of course NATO was a military guarantee or defense against Soviet 
aggression. And, of course, it is predominantly seen in the East 
European countries joining it as a guarantee or defense against any pos¬ 
sibly aggressive regime emerging in a future Russia. But, equally of 
course, a Russia irrevocably and clearly settled down as a peaceable 
member of the world scene would itself be a welcome component per¬ 
haps of NATO, certainly of an alliance for a less localized world stabil¬ 
ity. A best case. The worst case would be if the United States withdrew 
from, or enfeebled, NATO. Then Europe—and the world—would 
become danger zones, with bad, possibly disastrous, consequences for 
the United States. 

Russian strength internationally speaking, as indeed under the Soviet 
regime, lies in a vast nuclear armament. Its weaknesses are obvious. Of 
course, we must hope for—and work for, insofar as that is possible—a 
Russia recovered or recovering from its economic, political and mental 
crises. And so, in its different circumstances, with China—of which we 
have hardly treated, except by implication. Just as Russia is unpre¬ 
dictable in international, as in internal, affairs, China is also unpre- 

Afterword ♦ 29 / 

dictable, and also armed with nuclear weapons (and working to produce 
more and better). It is easy to say that the West should balance its 
incentives to bringing both countries into the world order, and disincen¬ 
tives to their reverting to dangerous threats to such an order. Such a bal¬ 
ance, far from being achieved, seems to be swaying somewhat erratically. 

China is, moreover, an example of the world trend to a merger of state 
and corporations (with the state firmly in charge). This is a phenomenon 
we have so far dealt with in the context of corporationist bureaucracies, 
operating, in this sphere, not so much from ideological motives proper as 
from habits picked up from defunct ideas—a problem for the democrat¬ 
ic populations everywhere. In the Chinese case, as elsewhere, it shows 
itself compatible with an expansionist attitude. China may evolve into a 
democratic and peaceable condition, as some think. Or it may reach that 
stage through revolutionary crisis, as others think. But there is also the 
possibility that something like the present system may persist longer than 
is desirable from the point of view of world peace. 

Moves to integrate Russia, China and other such states into a world 
order include, and have long included, the idea of financial links which 
will, it is hoped, tie them into the world economy. In that connection, 
an element in any sound foreign policy must be a reasonably thought- 
out attitude to loans by private, state or international bodies. Over the 
past decades, as we have seen, vast sums have in effect been poured 
down ratholes. That is, the money was not used as advertised, to 
improve the economy, but went into apparatchik pockets. Nothing was 
achieved (and this was true of all etatiste kleptocracies, not only the 
Communist ones). 

These huge outlays were made by famed institutions on the basis of 
advice from highly paid professionals. The results are more in accord 
with David Pryce-Joness note on the qualities involved: “Greed, cal¬ 
lousness, indifference and frivolity.” 

3 . 

Again, the human rights issue, as we have argued, is germane to Western 
foreign policy, in that suppression of the free movement of people and 
ideas is an obvious hindrance to progress towards a civic world. 
Moreover, such suppression, even occurring in states making no interna¬ 
tional trouble, may be the precursor of more virulent regimes. 

In a different sense, human rights in the developing world, too, is an 


issue not merely of humanitarianism but also of hardheaded policy. Civil 
strife in the Third World, when it continues, causes cultural regress into a 
bandit mentality. Generations of young men, even boys, depend on gang 
loyalties and Kalashnikov rifles. The economy is ruined. Politics dies out. 

In this and other contexts, an endemic fallacy that has colored 
Western diplomacy in the United Nations and elsewhere has been the 
notion of winning support by ignoring gross slanders by not only 
Communist but also other hostile states. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, 
when representing the United States at the UN, took the opposite view, 
always answering, and strongly counterattacking, such assaults. As he 
then pointed out, far from alienating the uncommitted, if anything this 
won them over. Forthrightness, and an insistence on truth, proved as 
effective as it was desirable—desirable, above all, in the long run, as a 
recognition that the international debate must, in our fundamental 
interests, not let our good case go by default. And firmness and clarity 
do not mean gross provocation or counterprovocation. 

On the other hand, a general consistency of approach should not 
mean an adherence to any theory of negotiation as now found among 
some academics and sometimes spilling over into foreign policy profes¬ 
sionals. In his inaugural lecture as Regius Professor of Modern History 
at Oxford, Michael Howard remarked of the “real lessons of history” 
that these apply to “people often of masterful intelligence, trained usual¬ 
ly in law or economics or perhaps political science, who have led their 
governments into disastrous miscalculations because they have no aware¬ 
ness whatever of the historical background, the cultural universe of the 
foreign societies with which they have to deal. It is an awareness for 
which no amount of strategic or economic analysis, no techniques of cri¬ 
sis management or conflict resolution . . . can provide a substitute.” 

The Western miscalculations over Kosovo seem to have been based 
on the attitudes Howard cites. NATO, designed to fight Russia, could 
hardly have failed to defeat Serbia. But its initial politico-military 
approach, as John Keegan noted at the time, “reeks of the seminar,” of 
experts who were expert in expertise rather than reality. 

Again, the popular foundations of foreign policy are also not as 
strong or as soundly based as they should be. In part this is because the 
media coverage of world events has been inadequate. As Michael 
Ignatieff has pointed out, one of the results of current ethnic conflicts 
and the presentation of their horrors on Western TV may be “the feel- 


2 93 


ing that the world has become too crazy to deserve serious attention” 


It is impossible to predict the effects of various crises not only in 
Russia or China but also elsewhere. Each crisis is unique in its range 
and combination of objective and subjective factors. And in any case, 
populations react differently to what seem to be parallel events. We 
have noted this in the failure of the stresses of the Industrial 
Revolution to lead to systemic crisis in Britain. The Marxist historian 
E. P. Thompson saw that, for one thing, class analysis fails to show how 
the British classes had a certain social balance and mutual understand¬ 
ing, and interpenetration, interrelation and humanity. Peter Vansittart, 
in his recent and fascinating In Memory of England\ gives many illustra¬ 
tions of this social spread, so different from that of much of the 
Continent. (He also, though far from imperialist, provides many illu¬ 
minating details of the human realities of the old Empire.) 

To have a reasonable chance of handling our problems, we need to 
learn from this and other history. Meanwhile, a certain degeneration of 
our own civic order has been accompanied by a substitution of vague 
sentiment, or pretentious sophistry, for the understanding and training 
needed to sustain it in the world. Above all, successful policy is strongly 
dependent on the willpower, and the unity 7 , of the democratic nations. 
Not that perfection can be expected in either. As to the willpower, that 
depends on informed and firm leadership for which no formal criterion 
can be devised. 

It is hard to define a country or a cultures self-confidence. Lytton 
Strachey, the most skeptical of historical writers, once described 
England in the 1720s, at the time of Voltaire s stay: 

The great achievement of the Revolution and the splendid triumphs of 
Marlborough had brought to England freedom, power, wealth, and that 
sense of high exhilaration which springs from victory and self-confidence. 
Her destiny was in the hands of an aristocracy which was not only capa¬ 
ble and enlightened, like most successful aristocracies, but which pos¬ 
sessed the peculiar attribute of being deep-rooted in popular sympathies 
and of drawing its life-blood from the popular will. 

Change aristocracy to “the political class,” and ask ourselves whether such 
an assessment applies to any country in the West. It is true, as Strachey 


says, that “stagnation” set in soon afterwards; but if we are to seek the 
cause of the incomparably lower morale of our countries at present, we 
must surely seek it, at least in part, in the cancer of the clerisy. 

We have not attempted to cover the whole range of foreign policy, 
nor have we sought to examine the whole range of Western domestic 
affairs. Thus we have said little about environmental problems. Many of 
these are obvious—pollution is there for all to see, and in some areas to 
breathe and drink. We have already suggested that some people actively 
involved in seeking solutions are temperamentally directed into mis¬ 
placed activism based on false or dubious information. We find in the 
highly respectable Economist (20 December 1997) an article arguing at 
length that all the (extreme) environmental and similar scares of the 
past few decades—with the sole exception of the effects of pesticides 
on the fauna—have been of this type (including global warming, except 
marginally). Pollution can surely be combated for its own sake; indeed a 
serious approach must be hindered by distraction on to imaginary or 
greatly exaggerated targets. 

The new corporatism and the bureaucratic caste it generates are, as we 
have suggested, negative features enough. One should add, first, that the 
computerization and the quasi-instant transfer of economic data and 
knowledge has an inbuilt tendency to promote “maximization” of prof¬ 
it—not so much on the productive as on the financial side. And second, 
that among not so much entrepreneurs proper, or even rentiers, as in this 
managerial stratum, a notable dehumanization of traditional “capitalism” 
has taken place, accompanied by the notorious excesses of salary and 
perks. Western governments, themselves entangled with this stratum, are 
coping inadequately; and the question is one for the public, left and right. 

In this context, though also more generally, we have not dealt with 
technologies as such, let alone their probable or possible future develop¬ 
ment. But we should not for a moment fail to realize that the future lies 
before the human race in terms of thousands and millions of years, far 
longer than Homo sapienss past, and far longer still than that of civi¬ 
lization. We are, nevertheless, at a major crux in that almost endless per¬ 
spective of possibility. 


Looking back on these pages, I see, too, that I have not given enough 
attention to, for example, the persistence to this day of an adolescent 

Afterword ♦ 293 

revolutionary romanticism, as one of the unfortunate afflictions to 
which the human mind was and is prone. This is now being demonstrat¬ 
ed yet again with (hardly credible though it may be) a revival of the cult 
of the totalitarian terrorist Che Guevara. It may (just) be worth record¬ 
ing that Adam Watson, a former British ambassador to Havana, told me 
that while he regarded Fidel Castro as an amiable rogue, he had found 
Guevara “a cold-blooded hypocrite.” This reference was to his lifestyle 
and not, unfortunately, to his doubtless “sincere” destructive drives. 

On a rather different, though not unconnected, note, readers will have 
come across criticism of the British Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm. 
The point is not Hobsbawms faults or merits—and some of his earlier 
work indeed has merits—but that an intellectual tendency in progressive 
establishment circles has evidently been brought, perhaps in student days, 
to regard these with a good deal more awe than most in the field would 
credit: a bad sign. Well, good luck to him (though bad luck for the British 
intelligentsia). We might, however, note as a contrary influence the frank 
and tormented abjuration by the no less influential writer Doris Lessing 
of her long-lasting Communist obsessions, a real human being abreacting 
what she now understands as an emotional and intellectual trap. 

Among similar points I have not stressed in the mental sphere is the 
coarsening of the social and intellectual atmosphere in the West, in 
addition to—or together with—its dumbing down. The striking thing 
is that this is not the emergence of what in Britain would be called a 
yob culture from some uneducated antisocial stratum so much as the 
conscious adoption—even invention—of such standards, and their 
imposition on the rest, by an alienated intelligentsia whose aim seems to 
be to make Mick Jagger look like Lord Chesterfield. This can perhaps 
be viewed as a somewhat degraded version of the proletarian pose we 
noted in earlier Marxists—now become lumpen. 

Another negative symptom is the fairly recent emergence of a valida¬ 
tion of novelty as such. Half a dozen recent advertisements for jobs in 
local authorities in Britain are quoted (Private Eye, 24 July 1998): all in 
terms of “innovative,” “breakthrough,” “cutting edge,” “groundbreak¬ 
ing.” One example, for a post with the Birmingham City Council: “right 
at the forefront of cutting edge service—pushing forward change that 
will be seminal in this fast changing context.” That is, it might also be 
described as—almost—an ideology in utero. The notion of administra¬ 
tive ability or other less shallow qualifications has gone. This is a fairly 


small-scale example, but of course activity for the sake of activity, or for 
the sake of the public appearance of activity, is to be found throughout 
British and American politics. 

And, of course, in the arts. Marxist aesthetics were bad enough. 
Adam Slonimski, when head of the Polish Writers Union in his coun¬ 
try’s brief “liberalization” in 1956, said of “socialist realism” that it 
could prove that Notre-Dame was progressive, or alternatively that it 
wasn’t beautiful. 

And now, in a slightly different mode, advanced cutting-edge think¬ 
ing on art can prove that a pail of bodily fluids and solids is beautiful, 
or alternatively that ugliness is aesthetically superior. This evokes such 
comments as (from the Guardian ): “These days an artist cannot just be a 
good artist, but must be a loud artist as well.” Or instead. 

In themselves such art, such criticism, do not prove that a nadir has 
been reached and things can only improve. But it is worth registering 
more substantial grounds for such a hope. In the 1960s Kenneth Tynan 
announced that Noel Coward was now gone and forgotten. Coward has 
reemerged but where is Tynan? Arnold Bennett was patronized as not up 
to Bloomsbury chic; now he is recognized as a better novelist than 
Virginia Woolf (who survives largely on her letters and criticism). 
Sargent: swing; but the list is long—and perhaps indicative of a more 
general revulsion. 

6 . 

We live in a world where the ideologies proper have suffered material 
and intellectual defeat. 

For several generations, after 1917, a series of states existed that 
secured the emotional allegiance of many Western intellectuals as 
embodiments of their own utopian fantasies. When Stalins USSR lost 
some of its appeal, the icon was transferred to Maoist Asia, then to 
Vietnam, Cuba, and finally the Sandinistas. No such center of attrac¬ 
tion now exists. 

But the demise of their greatest, and most irrational, competitors has 
plainly not left the societies and economies of the West (let alone of the 
Third World) in great condition. 

Moreover, for some, the collapse of ideology has left an aching void. 
Even in the United Kingdom, with socialism gone, there has been a 
move to provide the Labour Party with a new Idea, with meetings and 

Afterword ♦ 297 

discussions run by think tanks about a Third Way and so on. 
Meanwhile, in Russia there has been public and high-level discussion on 
constructing, or reconstructing, the Russian Idea. In antidemocratic cir¬ 
cles, this often amounts to the mental dregs ol Marxism-Leninism 
being mixed with a premodern mishmash of nationalism and exclusion- 
ist religion. 

More profoundly, the whole culture of civilization is at question not 
only in Russia, if especially in Russia. The nonagenarian Academician 
Dmitri Likhachev, since Andrei Sakharovs death Russia's most respect¬ 
ed scholar, had told us of the cultural and psychological crisis still 
affecting Russian minds. Of the Stalin period he notes, “[Tjhese psy¬ 
chological diseases are contagious, and the infection he started is still 
spreading. For seventy years they have been squeezing out of us feelings 
like sympathy, kindness, warmth.” 

He sees the institutions that nourished and preserved the cultural side 
crumbling away, and with it Russia’s status as a contributor to, and mem¬ 
ber of, civilization. “Everyone wants Russia to be a stable European coun¬ 
try, with European freedom and thought, rationality, recognition of other 
cultures as equals. ... If European culture in our country is not pre¬ 
served, then it will be replaced by some sort of perversion. Its extremely 
dangerous to the nation itself and to surrounding nations as well”That is, 
he sees the problem as not one of replacing a ruined ideology with a new 
one, but of the revivification of a broadly civilized mentality. 

In fact, a Cold War must always subsist between the principles of 
pluralism and those of ideological despotism. It is a struggle that has 
lasted two centuries. Before France’s then greatest poet Andre Chenier 
went to the guillotine in 1794, he wrote a splendid attack on the 
Jacobins who “presume to confer Certificates of correct thinking” And that 
attitude persists. 


More generally, this book is an overview, an attempt to present in a rea¬ 
sonably coherent way the crucial causes of past disaster, and so of the 
problems still facing us in our hopes for a reasonably peaceful and con¬ 
sensual world. 

It will be seen that I believe that only the eventual evolution of a civic 
type of order the world over will save us from the dangers that still 


That various cultures, or cultural attitudes, will persist is obvious 
enough, and their contribution to a loosely united world is a very posi¬ 
tive thing—broad variety not being the same as mutual antipathy. But 
we cannot in the long run accept the supposed corollary—that rogue 
regimes and movements produced in these cultures can be tolerated in 
principle, any more than could the National Socialist equivalent pro¬ 
duced in the Western culture. On the contrary, only pluralist versions, 
or versions incorporating or evolving toward pluralism, can be seen as 
real components of a future world. None of this is to say that the com¬ 
plex tactical problems of foreign policy can be solved by simplistic con¬ 
frontations. But a long-term strategy must maintain this general aim, 
nor dismiss it as impossible. 

So we now have the opportunity of creating a worldwide political 
order based on the unity and power of the democratic culture. But the 
opportunity is not the same as the certainty. The past is full of eras of 
progress that ended in darkness. Success depends on several factors, but 
in major part on our learning to avoid, in the West as in the East, the 
mental distortions that were the main source of our earlier troubles. We 
are in something of the position of France at the time of Montaigne, 
when the extremists of religious wars were discredited and moderation 
had its political and intellectual opportunity—which faded. The power 
of fanaticism and of misunderstanding is by no means extinct. 

Can the negative trends we have noted be reversed? Yes, they can. Can 
an intelligentsia shake off its delusions? Over the long haul, yes, it can. 
Can the civic culture prevail and create a peaceful world? Yes, it can. But 
we need to remember Churchills words, at the crisis of the Battle of the 
Atlantic, “all the great struggles of history have been won by superior 
will-power wresting victory in the teeth of odds or upon the narrowest 
of margins.” 

We can improve the odds by a careful consideration of what needs to 
be learned, and unlearned. 

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absolutism, 28, 30, 53 

academics, 11—12, 124-26, 137-38, 140, 

143-49, 219-24, 234, 235-36, 252 
activists, 198 
Afanasiev, Yuri, 110 
Afghanistan, 168 
Africa, 71-72, 180, 249-51 
Age of Extremes, The (Hobsbawm), 158 
“agitprop,” 111 

agriculture, 92, 93, 95-96, 100, 104—5 

Akhmatova, Anna, III 

Akselrod, Pavel, 10 

Alden, John R„ 271 

Alexander II,Tsar of Russia, 89 

Algeria, 69, 137 

Alienation and the Soviet Economy (Roberts), 104 

Alliance for Progress, 70 

Almond, Mark, 139 

Alter, Viktor, 151 

Alvarez, A., 8 

American Association for the Advancement of 
Slavic Studies, 219, 223 
American Hunger (Wright), 79 
American Revolution, 5, 28 
Amis, Kingsley, 222, 256 
Analog, xiv 

anarchism, anarchists, 34, 119, 127 
Andorra, 280 

Anglo-Celtic culture, 33, 240 
Anglos, 23 

Anglo-Saxons, 20, 23—24, 209 
Animal Farm (Orwell), 82 
anthropologists, 12, 20, 224 
anti-Semitism, 61—62, 63, 83, 86 
Applebaum, Anne, 59—60 
Aragon, 28 

Arguing Revolution (Khilnani), 5 
Aristotle, 30, 82, 206, 225 
Arnold, Matthew, 49 
Aron, Raymond, 56 
artistic culture, 207—12, 296 

Ash, Timothy Garton, 138 
Asia, 21, 22 
“Asiatic” society, 47 
Aslund, Anders, 194 
astronomers, 100 
Athens, classical, 12, 209 
Atkins, Christopher, 236 
atom bomb, see nuclear weapons 
Attica, 21 

Auden, W.H., 24, 119,226 

Australia, 129, 270, 271, 276, 277, 278, 281, 283 

Austria, 255 

Austro-Hungarian Empire, 242, 243 
Autobiography of an Unknown Indian (Chaudhuri), 246 

Babel, Isaak, 100, III, 112 

Bakunin, M. A., 44 

Balkans, 59, 69, 156, 264 

Baltic Social Democracy, 139 

Baltic states, 135, 243 

“banquet politics,” 121 

Barnell, John, 273 

“Basket Three,” 177—78 

Beauvoir, Simone de, 10, 56 

Belgian Congo, 250-51 

Bennett, Arnold, 296 

Bentley, Elizabeth, 130 

Berbers, 69 

Berdayev, Nikolai, 89 

Berelson, Bernard, 31 

Berger, Joseph, 40 

Berlin, 9, 155, 158 

Berman, Jakub, 79 

Bernstein, Eduard, 10, 53, 54 

Besan^on, Alain, 103, 112-13, 134, 191,221 

Bessmertnykh, Aleksandr, 184 

Bevin, Ernest, 79, 162 

Bill of Rights, 205 

Birth of the Nation, The (Schlesinger), 271 
Blunt, Anthony, 131—32 
Blutgfiibl, 63 

j°6 ♦ 

Bolsheviks, 11, 74, 76, 77-78, 82, 90-91, 93, 

126, 243-44 
Bonner, Elena, 171 
Bosnia, 71,264 
Boswell, James, 29 

bourgeoisie, 9, 36, 38, 49, 56, 107, 119 
Bramah, Ernest, 205 
Brandt, Willy, 170 
Braveheart , 238 

Brezhnev, Leonid, 54, 105, 144, 166, 167, 169, 170, 
173, 176, 178, 180, 182, 192,219 
British Commonwealth, 250, 268—69 
British Empire, 241-42, 245, 246-47, 24B-50, 
262, 269, 293 
British Enlightenment, 28 
British Interplanetary Society', xiv 
British Left Book Club, 129 
Brodsky, Joseph, III, 120, 132 
Brooke, Gerald, 179 
Brooke, Rupert, 261 
Brougham, Lord, 54 
Brown, J.A.C., 18 
Browne, Sir Thomas, 227 
Bryukhanov, Viktor, 106 
Bukharin, Nikolai, 78, 95, 98 
Bulgaria, 69, 137, 157, 226 
bureaucracies, 22, 110, 191, 201-2, 212, 254, 
258,261,262, 265, 270 
Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce, U.S., 

Burgess, Guy, 131, 132 
Burke, Edmund, 5 
Burma, 250 
Burnham, James, 212 
Bury, }. B., 241 
Bush, George, 171 
Bystritsky, Andrei, 190 
Byzantium, 80 

California, University of, 216 

Cambodia, 65, 164 

Cambridge History oj England, The, 50—51 

Cambridge spy ring, 131 —32 

Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), 142 

Camus, Albert, 84, 118 

Canada, 270, 271, 275, 276, 277-78, 281, 283, 

Cancer Ward (Solzhenitsyn), 91, 107 
Capital (Marx), 41,45 

capitalism, 45-47, 48, 116, 118, 152, 191-92, 
200,212, 240 

“car and harem syndrome,” 92 
Caribbean, 270, 275, 278 
Carter, Jimmy, 176 
Castro, Fidel 169, 182, 208, 295 
Catholics, 26, 125, 164 


Caute, David, 130 
cave paintings, 208 
Caxton, William, 209 
censorship, 205—6 
Census Board, Soviet, 96, 145 
Central American union, 255 
Central Europe, 243 

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), 134, 162, 172, 

Chakovski, Alexander, 146 
Chalfont, Lord, 174 
Chamberlain, Neville, 12, 17, 181, 182 
Chambers, Whittaker, 130 
Chartier, Emile, 232 
Chase Manhattan Bank, 134 
Chaudhun, Nirad, 246, 247 
Chekhov, Anton, 86, 89, 245 
Chenier, Andre, 297 
Chernayev, Anatoly, 184 
Chernobyl, 106 
Chernyshevsky, N. G., 90, 235 
Chesterton, G. K., xiii, 63 
Chiang Kai-shek, 165 
Chicago, University' of, 227 
China, Imperial, 208, 270 
China, Peoples Republic of, 52, 75, 98, 112, 137, 
141, 160, 164, 290-91 

“Christian Symbolism in Lucky Jim" (Conquest), 

Churchill, Sir Winston, 116, 150, 159, 182,217, 
228, 298 

Chute Finale, La (Todd), 213 
Ciliga, Anton, 40 
civilization, political, 208 
civil society', 20-33, 83, 208, 297-98 
Anglo-Celtic culture and, 32—33 
in Britain, 26—28 
level of state in, 22—24, 33, 201 
liberty' and, 23, 24—26 
prehistory of, 20—22 
see also democracy 
Clark, Kenneth, 255 
Clark, Manning, 129—30 
class struggle, 47—50, 93-95, 97 
Clement, Hal, xi 
Close, Francis, 248-49 
Cohn, Norman, 8, 35, 75—76 
Cold War. 142, 148, 150-84, 238, 297 
cause of, 152—53 
end of, 177, 183-84 
essential dynamic of, 154—55 
ideology and, 166—70 
nuclear arms and, 158—60, 166, 170—77 
propaganda in, 160—63 

Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe in, 153—54, 


♦ 3°7 

Wests victory in, 183—84 
World War II roots of, 150-52 
"Cold War attitudes,” 147—49 
Collins, Michael, 238 
Comintern, 64, 234 
Commentary, 62 
Commodus, 228 

Common Agricultural Policy, 262 
Common Market, 258—59, 263, 284 
common sense, 17 
Commune, of 1871, 29 
Communism, 7, 88, 234, 295 

National Socialism and, 64—66, 73, 75, 118 
Spanish Civil War and, 118—19 
see also Marxism; Stalinism 
Communism (Ulam), 39 
"communism, primitive,” 21 
Communist Central Committee, 74, 104, 160, 170 
Communist Manifesto (Marx and Engels), 9, 34, 38, 


Communist Parties: 
in Bulgaria, 226 
in China, 239 
in France, 40, 172 
in Great Britain, 135, 139, 142 
in Hungary, 41 
in Italy, 45, 160 
in Palestine, 40 
post-Soviet, 193 
post-War, 154—58 
in Romania, 167 
Soviet leadership of, 79, 128 
in U.S., 79, 136 
in Yugoslavia, 81 

Communist Party, Soviet Union (CPSU), 10, 44, 
91,95, 139, 153 
academics and, 42—43 
consolidation of, 92 
nationalism and, 63 
rewriting of history of, 101 
in Stalinist Terror, 98, 99 
totalitariamzing of, 76—79, 80-81 
Communist Party’ Program, 106 
Conde, Prince de (the Great Conde), 11 
Condorcet, Marquis de, 233 
Conference of European Communist Parties 
(1967), 169 
Congo, 250—51 

Congress for Cultural Freedom, 162 
Conrad, Joseph, 250-51 

consensual societies, 20—22, 24, 32, 33, 67, 71, 72, 


Constitution, U.S., 205, 259, 275 
corporatist society, 212—13, 291 
corruption, 22, 103-4, 191-92, 260, 261-62 
Councils of the European Ministers, 262 

Court of Appeals, U.S., 204 
Cousins, Frank. 284 
Coward, Noel, 296 
Crankshaw, Edward, 108 
creativity, 36 
Crimean War, 86—87 
Critical Quarterly, 222 
Croatia, 69 
Cuba, 141,296 
Cuban missile crisis, 166 
cultural differences, 11-13, 17, 69—70, 118 
cultural revolution, 97, 98 
culture, artistic, 207—12 
Czechoslovakia, 112, 139, 158, 160, 164, 191, 
Czech Republic, 206 

Daily Telegraph (London), 161—62 
Daintrey, Adrian, 131 
Daniel, Yuli, 178-79 
Danilenko, Viktor, 146 
Danto, Arthur, 210 
Darkness at Noon (Koestler), 7 
Dark Side oj the Moon, The, 155 
Darwin, Sir Charles, 36, 87 
Das Kapital (Marx), 41, 45 
das System, 36 
Davies, Joseph, 128 
Davis, Angela, 136 

Death oj Common Sense, The (Howard), 205 
Declaration of Independence, U.S., 271, 273, 287 
Declaration of Rights (1689), 25 
deconstructionists, 221—24 
de Gaulle, Charles, 179, 247 
democracy, xv, 4, 28, 73, 187, 188, 270 
British Empire and, 249 
components of, 21 

English-speaking countries as prime locations 
of, 32-33 

as habit of mind, 16, 32 
international aggression and, 67 
Jacobin claim to, 5 
liberty and, 25, 30—33 
media in, 117 
see also civil society 
"democratic centralism,” 128 
Deng Xiaopmg, 239 
Denmark, 260 
"detente,” 169—70 
Deutscher, Isaac, 157 
de Vries, Peter, 42 
Diderot, Denis, 233 
Disraeli, Benjamin, 275 
Djilas, Milovan, 38, 81, 107, 113, 164 
"Doctors Plot,” 138 
Doriot, Jacques, 64 

jo6 ♦ 

Dostoevsky, Fyodor, xv, 7, 8, 88, 197, 227 
Drucker, Peter, 197 
Dub£ek, Alexander, 112, 182 
Duchamp, Marcel, 211 
Duranty, Walter, 123, 124 
Durkheim, Emile, 230 

earthquakes, 105 

Eastern Europe, 55, 62, 79, 133, 164, 214, 290 
creating market economies in, 190—91 
ethnic “self-determination” in, 61 
nationhood in, 59—60 
Soviet takeover of, 153-54, 156-58 
Economist, 294 
economists. 133—35 
education, 215-39 
aim of, 215—16 

contemporary orthodoxies in, 221—24 
current failure of, 216—17 
different cultural approaches to, 219 
excess of, 229—30 
intelligently’ and, 235 
jargon in, 224 
limits to, 228-29, 234 
political dogma and, 219—21 
social sciences and, 230—33 
youthful idealism and, 224—28 
EEC (European Economic Community), 271, 283 
egalitarian communities, 20—21 
Egypt, ancient, 21 
Ehrenburg, Ilya, 94, 139 
Ehrlich, Henrik, 151 
Eichmann mentality, 76 
elections, fetishizing of, 30 
Eliot, T.S., 36, 155 
elites, 21-22 
Elmira, N.Y., 31 
Emancipation of the Serfs, 87 
empires, 241—42, 246-47 
Encounter, 162 

Engels, Friedrich, 34, 35, 39, 44, 47, 50, 52, 55. 
62, 93 

England, see Great Britain 
England, Your England (Orwell), 68 
English Civil War, 48 
English Constitution, 22 
English Parliament, 26—27, 29, 32 
English Revolution (1688), 5, 28, 125 
English-speaking countries, multinational federa¬ 
tion proposed for, 270—83 
Enlightenment, 28 

environmental issues, 199, 200, 227, 294 
espionage, 130, 136-37, 138, 159, 172, 179 
etatwn, 53, 197, 207, 235, 254, 258, 291 
Ethiopia, 44, 141 
“ethnic cleansing,” 61 


ethnic "self-determination,” 61—62 
eugenics, 126 

Europe, 23, 27, 28, 58, 67, 273, 274 
geographical definition of, 253 
see also Eastern Europe; Western Europe 
European Council, 262 

European Economic Community (EEC), 271, 283 
European Parliament, 262 
European Union (EU), 253—66, 267, 268, 
279-80, 282, 283-84 
budget of, 262 

cultural objections to, 256—57 
defense policy and, 263—65 
economics and, 259, 263 
ethnic conflict and, 254—55 
geographic obstacle to, 253 
laws and regulations and, 260—61 
political obstacles to, 253, 255-56, 257—59, 

U.S. and, 260, 264 

“evil empire” speech, of Reagan, 173—74 
experts, 143—47, 234, 235—36 

Fabian Society, 121, 124, 126 

Fainsod, Merle, 143—44 

“false consciousness,” 113 

Fascism, 62-63, 80, 132, 225 

“fascism,” use and misuse of term, 17—18, 136—37 

Federation of the West Indies, 255 

Fermor, Patrick Leigh, 64—65 

feudal societies, 48, 49, 57, 110, 279 

Feuer, Lewis S., 44 

Fiat, 104 

Fielding, Henry, 121—22 
Finland, 135, 155, 243 
Five-Year Plans, 101-2 

Forced Labour and Economic Development (Swianiewicz), 


Foreign Office, British, 162 

Foreign Policy of the Soviet Union, The (Gromyko), 

* 168-69 
Forster, E. M„ 250 
Fortune, 133 

France, 4, 5, 23, 24, 28, 31, 51, 56, 64, 90, 118, 
125, 157, 158, 164, 165,213, 243, 
245, 247, 279,282, 297, 298 
ancten regime of, 33 

contemporary intellectual theories in, 221—24 
1848 Revolution in, 54 
European Union and, 256, 257, 259, 260, 

new extremists in, 214 
Stalinist intellectuals in, 137-38, 139 
Third Republic of, 29 
village-based struggle in, 48—49 
Frank, Joseph, 197 




Frankel, Charles, 177 
Frankfurter, Felix, 275 
Frankfurter Allgememe Zeitung, 65 
Franklin, Benjamin, 272 
freedom of speech, 218, 237 
free-market economy, 5, 46, 69 
French Enlightenment, 28 
French Revolution, 5—6, 28-29, 49, 98 
nationalism and, 58 
Reason and, 4, 28 

Freud and the Post-Freudians (Brown), 18 
Freudianism, 119 
Frolenko, Mikhail, 88 

Gaitskell, Hugh, 41 

Galbraith, John Kenneth, 135 

Galiev, Sultan, 100 

Galina (Vishnevskaya), 108—9 

Gdansk, 39 

Geliner, Ernest, 56 

General Will, 33 

Gentile, Giovanni, 63 

German Confederation, 280 

German Democratic Republic (East Germany), 

138, 172 

German Empire, 242, 245 
German nationhood, 58—59 
German Peasant War, 62, 75 
Germany, Nazi, xii, xiv, 18, 30, 62, 76, 80, 82, 83, 
94. 102, 133, 135, 148, 225 
see also National Socialism 
Germany, Occupied, 157 
Germany, Unified, 256, 265, 282 
Germany (Engels), 55 
Ghana, 249 

Gibbon, Edward, 42, 219, 228 
glasnost, 177, 181, 188-89 
Glazer, Nathan, 137 
Gliksman, Jerzy, 127 

Gorbachev, Mikhail, 73, 105, 107, 184, 188, 190, 

Gourmont, Remy de, 6 
GPU, 94 
Gray, John, 205 

Great Britain, 5, 17, 29, 39-10, 48, 51, 58, 70, 82, 
86, 106, 125, 141. 144, 150, 152, 

157, 165, 200, 204, 205, 235, 243, 
268-69, 296-97 
absence of peasant class in, 24 
consensual political tradition in, 20—21 
democratic culture of, 32—33 
education in, 216, 220, 230 
European Union and, 253, 255—59, 260, 261, 
262-63, 264, 265-66, 279, 284 
legal systems of, 275 

long tradition of rights and liberties in, 23, 

25-26, 27-28, 262, 270 

multinational makeup of, 273—74 
political reform in, 206—7 
in proposed federation of English-speaking 
countries, 270—83 
roots of modern ideologies in, 4 
Stalinists and, see West, Stalinists in 
Great Fear, The (Caute), 130 
Great Terror, The (Conquest), xum 
Greece, 165, 260 
Greece, ancient, 22, 30, 31, 209 
Gromyko, Andrei, 167-69, 171, 188 
Gross, John, 238 
Grossman, Vasily, xii, 94, 156 
group loyalty, 80—81 
Guevara, Che, 39, 295 
Gulag, 86, 135, 137, 178 
Gulag Archipelago, Tie (Solzhenitsyn), 139 

Haga, Toru, 51 

Hall, Gus, 227 

Hannan, D., 263 

Harriman, Averell, 154, 176 

Harrod, Roy, 284 

Hartley, Anthony, 264 

Havel, Vaclav, 212 

Hayek, Friedrich von, 201—2 

Healey, Dennis, 279 

Heart of Darkness (Conrad), 250—51 

Heath, Edward, 258 

Hegel, G.W.F., 63 

Heidegger, Martin, 63 

Helsinki Agreement (1975), 177-78, 181 

Helsinki Watch Committees, 181 

Her riot, Edouard, 122 

Herzen, Alexander, 81, 88 

Heseltine, Michael, 213, 255 

Heydrich, Frau, 261 

Hillary, Richard, xii 

Hingley, Ronald, 8, 88—89, 133 

Hirschman, Albert O., 231 

Hiss, Alger, 137 

history, 7, 11-12,292 

bogus traditions in, 22—23 
of Cold War, 183 

importance of awareness of, xiii, 3, 217—19 
Marxism and, 50—51 
rewriting of, 101, 237—38 
by Sovietologists, 142—47 
History of the American Revolution, A (Alden), 271 
Hitler, Adolf, 12, 17, 36, 50, 59, 64, 76, 83, 94, 
117, 135, 143, 150, 162, 182,208, 

Hobsbawm, Eric, 13, 50, 158 

Communist Party membership of, 10—11 

3 W ♦ 

Hobsbawm, Eric ( continued ) 

Marxist bias of, 50, 295 
Soviet history as viewed by, 146—47 
Ho Chi Minh, 208, 234 
Hoffer, Eric, 9 
Hollander, Paul, 115 
Holmes, Oliver Wendell, 232 
Holocaust, xii, 65, 94, 98, 221—22 
Holy Roman Empire, 241,280 
homoousion, 40 
Hong Kong, 245 
Hope, Christopher, 109 
Hope against Hope (Mandelshtam), 6 
Hopkins, Harry, 151 
Hough, Jerry, 143-44, 145 
House Un-American Activities Committee, 137 
Howard, Anthony, 142 
Howard, Michael, 170, 292 
Howard, Philip K., 205 
How Russia b Ruled (Fainsod), 143—44 
How the Soviet Union b Governed (Hough and 
Fainsod), 143^14 
Hugenberg, Alfred, 83 
humanities, 230—33, 235 
human rights, 177—81,291—93 
Human Rights and Foreign Policy (Frankel), 177 
Hungarian Revolution, 139 
Hungary, 41, 59, 76, 157, 158, 164, 255 
Hunter, Holland, 149 

Iceland, 26 

Idea(s), 6, 61, 86, 97, 221, 225, 238, 296-97 
Communist Party as, 77 
consequences of giving absolute status to, xi- 
xii, xiv-xv, 3-4, 7, 15-16, 196, 199 
European Union as, 254, 266 
interpreters required for, 74 
milder forms of adherence to, 13 
nationality as, 68—69 
Soviet Union as, 85, 97, 111 —14 
temperament and, 6—8, 9—11,13 
Ideals and Dogma (Simmons), 41—42 
“ideitis” and “ideosis,” 13 
ideology, collapse of, 296—97 
Ideology and the Ideologists (Feuer), 44 
Jgnatieff, Michael, 10-11, 33, 292-93 
imperialism, 152, 240—52 

anti-imperialism and, 250—52 
empires and, 241—42, 246-47 
nationalism and, 246—48, 249—50 
Soviet Union and, 168, 243-45 
U.S. and, 251 

India, 71, 242, 246-47, 248-49, 251, 279, 280 
individuality 7 , 15, 18—19, 35, 40, 62—63 
Industrial Revolution, 4, 5, 24 
infant death rates, 47, 106 


In Memory of England (Vansittart), 293 
intellectuals, 8, 63, 79, 198 
mtelligentry, 235, 236, 238 
intelligentsia, 4, 40, 63, 86, 128, 141, 211—12, 
216, 235,295 
delusion and, 17, 298 
millenarians and, 75—76 
Russian rise of, 87—89 
Stalinist, 137—38 

Intelligentsia of Great Britain , The (Mirsky), 86 
internationalism, 66—67, 72, 268—70 

see also European Union; multinational federa¬ 

Iraq, 111 

Ireland, 250, 251, 252, 270, 279 
Irish Free State, 204 
Irish Parliament, 207 
“irredenta” wars, 67 
Iskander, Fazil, 189, 190 
isms, Ismology, 17—18, 74 
Israel, 206 
istina, 7, 90 

Italy, 45, 62-63, 64, 70, 157, 158, 160, 220, 225, 
260, 261,282 

Izvestia , 98 

Jackson, Henry, 148, 175 
Jacobins, 5, 90, 297 
James, Clive, 222 
James, C.R.L., 128 
James, William, 9—10 
Jameson, Fredric, 149 
Japan, 213, 241, 283 
Javits, Jacob, 284 
Jay, Douglas, 284—85 
Jay, John, 259, 287 
Jefferson, Thomas, 30, 217 
Jenkins, Roy, 162 
Jensen, John, 103 

Jews, 36, 61-62, 63, 83, 86, 94, 101, 138, 274 
see also Holocaust 
JFK, 237-38 
Johnson, Hewlett, 120 
Johnson, Samuel, 206 
Johnston, Eric, 133 
Joliot-Curie, Frederic, 159 
Jonathan Wild (Fielding), 121—22 
Judt, Tony, 214 
Jutland, 21 

Kadar, Janos, 41 
Kalinin, Mikhail, 96, 122 
Kampuchea, 65 
Kantorovich, Vladimir, 230 
Katel, Jacques, 40 
Katyn massacre, 151 


Kedourie, Elie, 61 

Keegan, John, 292 

Kennan, George, 151 

Kennedy, John F„ 70, 179, 237, 288 

Kermode, Frank, 171 

Keynes, John Maynard, 201, 220, 233 

KGB, 121, 132, 144, 171, 172, 178, 181 

Khilnani, Sunil, 5 

Khmer Rouge, 65, 84 

Khrushchev, N. K., 91, 104, 106, 138, 144, 
166-67, 168 
Kierkegaard, Soren, xv, 64 
kings, 23, 27-28, 57, 279 
Kinsley, Michael, 213 
Kipling, Rudyard, 249 
Klaus, Vaclav, 191 
Koerber, Lenka von, 127 
Koestler, Arthur, xiv, 7, 96, 130, 135, 156, 161, 

Kolakowski, Leszek, 62, 64, 73-74, 111,118 
Kotnmunist, 43 
Kotnscmolskaya Pravda, 175 
Kopelev, Lev, 95 

Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of (North 
Korea), 47, 142 

Korea, Republic of (South Korea), 46—47, 142 

Kosovo, 264, 290, 292 

Kozyrev, Andrei, 174 

Kronstadt Rebellion, 92 

“kulaks,” 94, 97, 125 

labor camps, 98-99, 144, 163, 189 

Ladurie, Emmanuel Le Roy, 49 

Lafitte, Jean, 163 

Landau, Lev, 171 

Landes, David S., 69 

Landmarks (Vekhi), 89 

Laqueur, Walter, 169—70 

Larina, Anna, 98, 99 

Larionov, A. N., 104—5 

La Scala, 108—9 

Laski, Harold, xiv, 126, 127 

Last Enemy, The (Hillary), xii 

“Late Show,The,” 10—11 

Latin America, 70 

Lattimore, Owen, 136 

Laughland, John, 262 

law, 21, 27, 46, 81, 202-5, 260, 270, 275-76 

see also rule of law 
Lazarfeld, Paul, 31 
League of Women Voters, 235 
Le Carre, John, 47 
Lellouche, Pierre, 258 
Lenard, Philipp, 159 

Lenin, V I., 16, 35, 38, 39, 49, 60, 63, 74, 76, 77, 
85, 86, 89-95, 112, 113, 115, 116, 

♦ 3 " 

125, 129-30, 170, 171, 193, 220-21, 


Marxism and, 54—55, 90 

Red Terror conducted under, 98 

revolutionary conversion of, 89—90 
Leninism, 80, 90, 188, 234 
Lessing, Doris, 295 
liberals, 90, 118, 207 

liberties, political, 23, 24—26, 30-33, 155, 205—6, 
Lichtheim, George, 59, 65—66 
Liebknecht, Wilhelm, 52 
Likhachev, D. S., 188, 297 
Lincoln, Abraham, 208 
Lipset, Seymour Martin, 79, 249 
Litvinov, Maxim, 153, 154 
Locke, John, 4 
London, 5, 40, 269 
London County Council, 126 
London Magazine, 61 
Long, Huey, 142 
Los Angeles Times, 137 
Louisiana, 276 
Lukacs, Georg, 44, 220 
Lukacs, John, 224 
Lukyanov, Anatoly, 193 
Luxemburg, Rosa, 78 
Lyons, Eugene, 123 

Maastricht, Treaty of, 259, 260, 263, 279, 287 

Macaulay, Thomas, 25, 29, 32, 249 

McAuley, James, 129 

McCarthy, Joseph, 136, 137 

McCarthyism, 130, 136, 137 

Maclean, Donald, 131 

McNamara, Robert, 234 

MacNeice, Louis, 12 

McPhee, William, 31 

Madison, James, 30, 259 

Magna Carta, 27, 205 

Maironovski, Colonel, 101 

Maisky, Ivan, 153 

Making Democracy Work (Putnam), 70 

Malaysia, 255, 280 

Malcolm, Noel, 213 

Malraux, Andre, 35, 100 

Managerial Revolution, The (Burnham), 212 

Man and Socialism in Cuba (Guevara), 39 

Mandelshtam, Nadezhda, 6, 42 

Manhattan Project, 159 

Maniu, Julius, 157 

Mannheim, Karl, 28 

Man Who Was Thursday, The (Chesterton), xiii 
Maoists, 52, 160, 296 
Mao Zedong, 50, 99, 112, 141, 160, 208 
Marat, Jean-Paul, 5 


3 ^ ♦ 

Marchais, Georges, 172 

Marcus Aurelius, 228 

market economy, 24, 29, 46, 69, 190-91 

Markov, Georgi, 226 

Marshall Plan, 158 

Marx, Karl, 9, 34, 35, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 
50, 52, 55,81,90, 113, 193,216, 

as ignorant of both proletariat and bourgeoisie, 


intellectual influences on, 4, 36 
Marxism, 21, 34-56, 57, 90, 106-7, 116, 139, 
193, 200, 220 
contradictions of, 53—54 
economic critique of, 45—50 
history and, 50—51 
intellectual obsolescence of, 220—21 
lack of clarity of, 41—43 
Lenin and, 54—55 

lowered standard of living and, 39—40 
nationalism and, 62—63 
proletariat and, 37—41, 106 
pseudoscience and, 52, 63 
real motives of, 43, 44 
as science, 36—37, 44, 45, 53 
temperament and, 9, 52—53 
tenacity of, 34, 56 
urbicentricity of, 93 
as utopian vision, 35—36 
see also Communism; Stalinism 
Marxism and Empiriocriticistn (Lenin), 55 
Masam, Minoo, 252 
Matthews, Mervyn, 110 
Mayakovsky, V V, 97 
Mead, Margaret, 224 

media, III, 117, 123, 142, 172, 173, 237 

Meinhof, Ulrike, 65 

Memoirs (Kennan), 151 

Mensheviks, 76, 77, 90 

Messengers of Day (Powell), 130 

messianics, 74—76 

Metaxas, Ioanms, 165 

Michel, Robert, 22 

Mikhailov, Alexander, 89 

Mikhoels, Solomon, 101 

Mikolajczyk, Stanislaw, 152, 157—58 

military, women in, 199 

millenarian sects, 74, 75—76 

Milosevic, Slobodan, 69, 214 

Mirsky, Dimitri, 86 

“missile gap,” 166 

modernity, 37, 80, 92, 126—27, 229 
Modern Language Association, 223 
Molotov, V M., 93 
Mongolia, 21 

Montaigne, Michel Eyquem de, xiii, 231, 298 

Montesquieu, 22, 28 
Morris, John, 27 
Moscow, 93, 106, 108—9 
Moscow! Moscow! (Hope), 109 
Moscow show trials, 77, 125, 126, 128—29 
Moynihan, Daniel Patrick, 61, 292 
Muggeridge, Malcolm, 121, 123 
multinational federations, 255, 267—88 
of English-speaking countries, 270—83 
national sovereignty and, 287—88 
need for, 267-68 

of North Atlantic countries, 284—86 
objections to, 286—87 
see also European Union 
Miinzer, Thomas, 47 
Mussolini, Benito, 62—63 
mystics, 10 

Nabobs, The (Spear), 248 
Naboth, 24 
Nagy, Imre, 138 

Naipaul, V S., 246, 247, 249, 250 
Nation, 123 

National Assembly, French, 258 
National Executive Committee, 139 
National Front, 214 
“national identity,” 274—75 
nationalism, 57—72, 77, 214, 234, 242, 278 
cultural differences and, 69—70 
in Eastern Europe, 59—60 
ethnic “self-determination” and, 61—62 
European federalization and, 253, 254 
imperialism and, 246—48, 249—50 
nationhood and, 57—59 
of Nazis, 38-39, 62-63, 83 
other countries and, 66—67, 72 
tribalism and, 71—72 

National Socialism, 17, 40, 55, 74, 148, 298 
Communism and, 64—66, 74, 75, 118 
early followers of, 8, 9 
nationalism and, 38—39, 62—63, 83 
see also Germany, Nazi 
Nations Business, 133 
nation-states, 22, 27, 57—59, 81, 240 
NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), 161, 
264, 265, 267, 281-82, 290, 292 
Nazis, see Germany, Nazi; National Socialism 
Nazi-Soviet Pact, 132, 135 
Necker, Jacques, 270 
Neoplatonists, 42 
Neruda, Pablo, 138 
neutron bomb, 172 
New Atlantic Initiative, 285, 287 
New China News Agency, 52 
“New Class,” 38, 107—8 
New Economic Party (NEP), 92, 102 

Index ♦ j 

Newfoundland, 'll! 

Newman, P. R., 48 

New Republic, 31,213 

“New Soviet Man,” 85, 107 

New Statesman, 13, 60, 142 

New World of the Gothic Fox, The (Veliz), 70 

New Yorker, 123 

New York Times, 123, 156 

New Zealand, 206, 270, 271, 273, 277, 278, 281, 

Nicaragua, 139, 141 
nihilism, 87—88, 231 
Z 984 (Orwell), 134-35 
Nixon, Richard M., 137, 180 
NKVD, 98, 100, 101, 152 
Nobel Prize, 63, 120, 159, 171, 233 
North, Douglas, 233 

North Atlantic Free Trade Association (NAFTA), 

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), 161, 
264, 265, 267, 281-82, 290, 292 
Norway, 255 

nuclear war, 8, 158-59, 163, 164-65, 267 
nuclear weapons, 158—60, 166, 170—77, 181, 194, 

Oakeshott, Michael, 30, 198, 232 

Observer (London), 229—30 

“Oceanic” Association, 283 

“offensive against the positions of imperialism,” 


Ogoltsov, Sergei, 101 
Old Service, The (Newman), 48 
oligarchical bureaucracies, 22 
Open Society, see civil society 
Original Sin, 50 

Orwell, George, xii, xiv, 6, 17—18, 43, 66—67, 68, 
77, 82, 83, 108, 115, 116, 121, 126, 
134-35, 136, 141, 148, 161, 198, 
212,247, 249 
Owen, Robert, 48 

Pacific Ocean, countries of, 270, 277, 278, 283 

Paine, Thomas, 274 

Palestine, 40 

Palumbo, Lord, 210 

Pandemonium (Moynihan), 61 

Panov couple, emigration of, 109 

Pares, Sir Bernard, 126 

Paris Review, 87 

Parkinson s Law, 212 

Passage to India, A (Forster), 250 

Pasternak, Boris, 87, 97, 156 

Pathe, Pierre-Charles, 172 

Patterson, J .}., 233 

Peacock, Thomas Love, 103—4 

peasant class, 24, 28, 48—49, 58, 62, 91, 93—97, 
98, 125,141, 145 

Peasant War in Germany, The (Engels), 62 
Penguin Book of Surrealist Verse, 211 
“Peoples Democracy,” 163 
perestroika, 188—89 
Peru, 220 

Petkov, Nikola, 157 
Petrie, Sir Flinders, 233 
Pfaender, Karl, 52 
Phillips, Melanie, 229—30 
phrenology, 52, 220 
Pipes, Richard, 173, 175 
pirate states, 67 
Pivasheva, Lyudmila, 194 
plutocrats, 36 
Poem for Adults (Berman), 79 
pogroms, 61, 86 

Poland, 39, 40, 134, 135, 151-52, 156, 157-58, 
164, 165, 167, 206, 207, 296 

Polemic, 135 

Politburo, 4, 79, 81, 113, 127, 171, 178, 182 

political apathy and mania, 30—32 

Political Warfare Executive, 162 

Pollitt, Harry, 139 

Ponomarev, Boris, 139 

Portable Greek Reader, The, 24 

Possessed, The (Dostoevsky), 7, 88 

Postino, II, 137 

poverty, 214 

Powell, Anthony, 131 

power, 21-22,81,84, 109,221 

Powers, Thomas, 159 

pravda, 7, 90 

Pravda, 104, 139, 146, 167 
Present Danger (Conquest), 176—77 
Prime of Life, The (Beauvoir), 10 
“primitive communism,” 21 
pnsons, Soviet, 127 
Pntt, D. N., 127 
Private Eye, 295 

Privilege in the Soviet Union (Matthews), 110 
pnviligentsia, 38 

“professional revolutionaries,” 76 
Program of Meetings of the Society for the Promotion of 
Roman Studies, 233 
proletariat, 37—41, 90—91, 106 
see also working class 
“Property is Theft,” 41 
prophetae, 75, 80 

proportional representation, 206 
Prospect, 7 

Proudhon, Pierre-Joseph, 41 
Pryce-Jones, David, 262, 291 
pseudoscience, 13, 18, 52, 63, 220, 222 
psychoanalysis, 119 

j/4 ♦ INDEX 

psychology, 18,231 
public confession trials, 100 
Puerto Rico, 278 
Pulitzer Prize, 123 

Pursuit of the Millennium, The (Cohn), 35, 75 

Pushkin, A. S„ 6, 7 

Putnam, Robert D., 70 

Putting Up with the Russians (Crankshaw), 108 

Pyatakov, Yuri, 77—78 

Quebec, 277 

race, 52, 63, 126, 240, 248-49, 273, 274, 275, 

“radical chic,” 119, 132 

Radice, Giles, 254 

radio, III, 161 

Radio Free Europe, 161 

Radio Liberty, 161 

Rakovski, Khristian, 92 

Raphael, Frederic, 7 

Reagan, Ronald, 79, 173-74, 177, 184 

realpolitik, 150 

Reason, 3—4, 28, 58, 233 

Red Brigade, 65, 220 

Red Terror, 98 

regulation, economic, 46 

Remnick, David, 106, 190 

Republique Immobile, La (Lellouche), 258 

Reuter, Ernst, 155 

“revisionism,” 10 

Revolution, 4—11 

adolescent romanticism and, 294—96 
as crude thinking, 5—6 
growth of Idea of, 4 
intelligence and, 8—9 
as mental trap, 141—42 
messianics and, 74—75 
by “professionals,” 76, 90 
temperament and, 6—8, 9—11 
Reynolds, Joshua, 233 
“risk aversion” theory, 231 
Roberts, Paul Craig, 104 
Robespierre, Maximilien de, 7 
Roche, Sir Boyle, 207 
Rock, The (Eliot), 36 
Rodney, Caesar, 272—73 
Roman Catholic Church, 164 
Romania, 157, 167 
Romanticism, 4, 28 
Rome, ancient, 50—51, 263 
Rome, Treaty of, 260, 279, 287 
Roosevelt, Franklin D., 181 
Rosenberg, Ethel and Julius, 137 
Ross, William. 284 
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, 4, 33, 81 

Rousset libel trial, 163 
Royal Academy, 211 
rule of law, xiii, 33, 155, 218, 240 
democracy preceded by, 25, 249 
in post-Communist Eastern Europe, 191 
Russell, Bertrand, 6—7 
Russia, Imperial, 61, 82, 85—89, 235 
expansionism and, 93, 242, 243 
nationhood and, 60 
peasant class of, 28 
state violence in, 86 

Russia (post-Soviet), 187—95, 201, 254, 297 
corruption in, 191—92 
initial conditions in, 188—90 
insularity of, 193—94 
as nuclear power, 290 
pessimistic scenarios for, 194—95 
Russia After Khrushchev (Conquest), 244 
Russian Civil War, 61, 76, 91 
Russian Enlightenment, 87 
Russian Mind, The (Hingley), 88 
Russian Revolution, 6, 58, 76, 81—82, 91—93, 98, 
115-16, 146 
proletariat and, 90—91 
Russkaya Mysl, 89 
Rwanda, 71 
Ryzhkov, Nikolai, 113 

Sade, Marquis de, 56 

Sakharov, Andrei, 106, 108, III, 130, 156, 171, 
174-75, 179, 188, 189, 297 
SALT I and II, 174-75 
Sal way, Peter, 50—51 
Sandinistas, 139, 141, 296 
Sartori, Giovanni, 73, 203 
Sartre, Jean-Paul, 10, 137 
“savage capitalism,” 191 
Saxons, 22, 23 

Schapiro, Leonard, 35, 81, 82, 180 
Scharansky, Anatoli, 179—80 
Schirach, Baldur von, 225 
Schlesinger, Arthur, Sr., 271, 284 
science, 3-4, 87, 229, 231-33, 240 
Scientific American, 236 
“scientific” positivism, 89, 90 
scientists, 100, 132—33, 159 
Scotland, 72, 273-74, 275 
Scott, James, 31 

SDI (Strategic Defense Initiative), 184 

Seeing Like a State (Scott), 31 

Selden, John, 204 

Senate, U.S., 217 

Seong, Kyoung-Ryung, 249 

Serbia, 69 

Seton-Watson, Hugh, 64 
sex, Victorian, 38 


Shakespeare, William, 182, 222, 228 
Shaligram, S. T., 248 
Shaw, George Bernard, 115-16, 121, 221 
Shcherbina, Boris, 106 
Shevardnadze, Eduard, 113, 154—55 
Shils, Edward, 227 

“Shining Path" guerrilla movement, 220 
Shmelev, Nikolai, 149 

Short History oj Socialism, A (Lichtheim), 65—66 
Simmons, David, 41—42 
Simonov, Konstantin, 156 
Sinyavski, Andrei, 178—79 
Slater, Humphrey, 135 
slavery, 50-51,71, 248—49 
Slonimski, Adam, 296 
Smiley, Xan, 161—62 
Smith, Adam, 233 
Snow, C. P. T 140 
Social Democrats, 64, 117, 157 
socialism, 91-92, 107, 116-17, 124, 126, 153, 
190, 240, 296 
Socialist Party, French, 40 
social sciences, 230—33 

Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, xiii 
sociologists, 145 
Sokal, Alan, 221 

Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr, 91, 107, 112, 139, 171, 
^ 179, 194,257 
Somalia, 67 

Soviet Communism (Webb and Webb), 125—26 
Soviet Forced Labor Codex, 162 
Sovietologists, 142—47 
Soviet Russia Fights Crime (Koerber), 127 
Soviet Union, 11, 37, 42-43, 46, 52, 75, 79, 82, 
85-114, 200, 255,257, 296 
collapse of, 187-89, 245 
dissident movement in, 178—79, 180—81 
economy of, 91-92, I0I-7, 133-35, 140, 
149, 154, 169, 184, 188-89, 190, 
192, 193 

expansionism and, 93, 168, 180, 243—45 
foreign policy of, 113, 155, 164, 168—69 
heavy industry in, 38, 90, 92, 106—7, 190 
law in, 81, 105 

military spending in, 107, 154, 183—84 
1932-33 famine in, 96, 121, 122, 123-24, 
125, 148 

as nuclear power, 159—60, 166 
official lies in, 7. 95-96, 97, I00-I0I, 102, 
104,III, 122-23 

peasant class of, 28, 91, 93—97, 98, 125, 145 
population of, 96, 98, 123, 145 
ruling elite of, 107-10 
show trials in, 77, 125, 126, 128—29 
Stalinist terrors in, xii, 6, 85, 86, 96, 97-101, 
138, 139, 144-45, 148 

♦ 3'J 

as totalitarian state, 73, 114 
visits by Western supporters to, 121, 122, 

Western disillusionment with, 138—39 
in World War II, 133, 135, 150-51, 153 
xenophobia of, 193 
Soviet-U.S. relations: 

diplomatic recognition in, 133 

human rights and, 177—81 

nuclear weapons and arms talks in, 158-60, 

166, 170-77, 181 
Soviet psychology and, 181-83 
trade and, 133—34 
in World War II, 150-51 
see also Cold War; West, Stalinists in 
Sowell, Thomas, 207 
Spain, 23, 70, 282 

Spanish Civil War, 118—19, 129, 135 

Spanish Empire, 70 

Sparrow, John, 132 

Spear, Percival, 248 

Spectator, 213 

Spencer, Herbert, 199 

Spender, Stephen, 128—29 

Spengler, Oswald, 75 

Stalin, Joseph, xiv, 49, 50, 54, 78, 81, 91, 94, 102, 
104, 116, 126, 128, 135, 138, 139, 
140, 149, 167, 178, 179,208, 296, 

in Cold War, 152-53, 154, 156, 158, 159, 
160, 164, 165 
death of, 166 
Lenin and, 93 
Wells and, 121, 122 
in World War II, 150, 151-52 
see also Soviet Union, Stalinist terrors in 
Stalinism, 188, 212 

“total lie” and, 73—74 

see also Communism; Marxism; West, Stalinists 

Stanford, Leland, 229 

Stanford University, 136, 229 

Stark, Johannes, 159 

State and Revolution (Lenin), 35, 112 

State Commission on Prices, 103 

State Department, U.S., 151, 173 

Steffens, Lincoln, 117 

Stettinius, Edward, 176 

stolkachi, 192 

Stone, Oliver, 237 

Strachey, John, 129 

Strachey, Lytton, 28—29, 293—94 

Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), 184 

Sunday Express (London), 261 

Sunstein, Cass R„ 31 

Supreme Court, U.S., 204, 205 

J 16 ♦ INDEX 

Supreme Soviet, 110, 167, 188 
Surkov, Alexei, 140 
“surplus value,” 45 
Suslov, Mikhail, 160 
Sweden, 255 

Swianiewicz, Stanislaw, 102 
Swift, Jonathan, 52—53, 221 
Switzerland, 27, 230, 259, 280 
Symons, Julian, 129 
syndicalism, 34 

Systeme des Beaux-Arts (Chartier), 232 

Tanner, Vaino, 155 
Tanzania, 93 
Tao Chu, 160 
Tate Gallery, 210, 211 
Tatu, Michel, 179 

technology, 81-82, 87, 92, 240, 273 
Teller, Edward, 130 
Teltschik, Horst, 260 
Tennyson, Alfred, Lord, 200—201 
terrorism, 289 
Texaco, 213 

Thatcher, Margaret, 148, 171, 173, 263 

Theory of Democracy Revisited, The (Sartori), 73, 203 

Third International, 93 

Third World, 141, 286, 291-92, 296 

"Thirteenth Month,” 110 

Thirties, The (Symons), 129 

Thomas, Dvlan, 61 

Thomas, Hugh, 70 

Thompson, E. P., 293 

Thucydides, 50 

Tiger, Lionel, 230 

Tillemont, Sebastien Le Nain de, 219 
Time oj Gifts, A (Fermor), 65 
Times (London), 12, 171 
Tiptoft, John “Butcher Earl,” 209 
Tocqueville, Alexis de, 32, 174 
Todd, Emmanuel, 213 
Togliatti, Palmiro, 45, 160 
Togliatti Factor)-, 104 
“To One Who Ran Down the English” 
(Tennyson), 200—201 
Torres, John Charles, 249 
totalitarianism, state, 73—84, 114, 202, 230 
definition of, 73—74 
group loyalty and, 80-81 
and habits of previous regime, 82—83 
irrationality and, 83—84 
limitless power of, 81—83 
messianics and, 74—76 
temperament and, 76—80 
will of one person in, 80 
“total lie,” 73—74 
Towards 1996 (Hannan), 263 

Tremaux, Pierre, 52 
Trento, University of, 220 
Trevelyan, G. M., 219 
tribalism, 21, 71-72 
Tribune (London), 156 
Trilling, Lionel, 235-36 
Trotsky, Leon, 63, 77, 101, 220 
Trotskyism, 78 

truth, 7, 73-74, 90, 101, 237-38 
Tsarism, 74, 86, 98 
Tukhachevsky, Marshal, 99 
Turgenev, Ivan, 225—26, 227 
Turkish Empire, 242—43 
Turner, Ted, 238 
Turner Prize, 210 
tutejszy, 60 
Twenty Million, 98 
Tynan, Kenneth, 296 
“tyranny of the majority,” 30 

U-boats, 151 

Ukraine, 60, 96, 104, 121, 122, 124 

Ulam, Adam, 39, 88, 235 

UNESCO, 172 

United Arab Republic, 255 

United Front, 40 

United Kingdom, see Great Britain 

United Nations, 159, 162, 268, 274, 292 

United States: 

Anglo-Saxon political heritage of, 22 
democratic culture in, 32—33 
democratic philosophy in, 30 
European Union and, 260, 264 
formation of, 259, 272—73, 285—86 
French philosophers and, 221 
frontier culture of, 23 
as imperial power, 251 
internationalism and, 268—69 
judicial and legal system of, 204, 205, 276 
Latin America and, 70 
as nuclear power, 158—59 
in proposed federation of English-speaking 
countries, 270-83 

in proposed North Atlantic Free Trade 
Association, 285 
Revolutionary frenzy absent in, 4 
see also Soviet-U.S. relations; West, Stalinists in 
Ushakov, V M„ 99 
utopian visions, 35 

value, Marxist theory of, 45 
Van Loon, Hendrik, 218 
Vansittart, Peter, 293 
Vargas Llosa, Mario, 70 
Veliz, Claudio, 70 
Victoria, Queen of England, 54 


Vienna, 243 
Viereck, Peter, 132 
Vietcong, 141 
Vietnam, 93, 164, 296 
Vietnam War, 234 
villeinage, 24 
Virginia, 22 

Vishnevskaya, Galina, 108—9 
Volsky, N.V, 77 
Voltaire, 28, 241,293 
“vulgar Marxism,” 44 
Vyshinsky, Andrei, 126, 159 

Wales, 61, 260, 273-74 

Wallace, Mackenzie, 88 

Wallace, William, 238 

Wallenberg, Raoul, 151 

Wallet of Kai Lung, The (Bramah), 205 

Wall Street Journal, 233 

Warrant for Genocide (Cohn), 8 

Washington Post, 47 

Watkins, Alan, 257 

Watson, Adam, 295 

Wazyk, Adam, 79 

Wealth and Poverty of Nations, The (Landes), 69 
Webb, Sidney and Beatrice, 124—26, 127, 135, 
140, 143, 145, 146 
Weber, Max, 202 
Weissberg, Alexander, 107 
Wells, KG., 63, 117, 121, 122, 126,218,281 
West, 196-214 

artistic culture in, 207-12 
bureaucracy and, 201—2 
censorship in, 205—6 
corporatizing of, 212—13 
law in, 202—5 

political realignment of, 213—14 
political rhetoric in, 197—201 
reform in, 206—7 
social inventions of, 240 
Soviet laws controlling views on, 193 
West, Stalinists in, 7—8, 16, 115—49, 219 
academics, 124—27, 142-47 
anti-Communists and, 136—37, 140 
“Cold War attitudes” and, 147-49 
disillusionment of, 138—39 
economists, 133—35 
ethical argument made by, 116—17 

♦ 3*7 

Moscow’ show trials and, 128—29 
motives of, 116—20 
self-deception by, 120—24 
spies, 130—33, 136—37, 159 
visits to Soviet Union by, 121, 122, 123-24 
Western Europe, 22, 61, 71, 74, 153, 207 
constitutional changes in, 259—60 
nationhood in, 57—59 

post-War Communist Parties in, 154, 157—58 
see also European Union 
What b to Be Done? (Chernyshevsky), 90 
\\%at h to Be Done? (Lenin), 90 
Wheatcroft, Geoffrey, 214 
Wheeler, Mortimer, 209 
Whitehead, A. N„ 24 
Williams College, 221—22 
Wolfe, Bertram, 234 
women, 26, 38, 199, 228 
Woodrow Wilson Center, 176 
Woolf, Virginia, 296 
Woollcott, Alexander, 123 
working class, 26, 39—40, 53, 54, 90 
see also proletariat 
World Bank, 234 

World Council of Churches, 120-21 
world government, 66 
world market, 34 
World State, 281 

World War I, 58-59, 62, 64, 243, 247 
World War II, xii, 83, 133, 135, 150-51, 153, 
199, 271 

see also Holocaust 
Wright, Richard, 79 

Yakovlev, Alexander, 4, 192, 193 

Yale University Press, 130 

Yeats, W B., xi, 204 

Yeltsin, Boris, 73 

Young Communists, 100 

Yugoslavia, 40, 69, 81, 153, 164, 245, 255, 264 

Zagladin, V V, 175 
Zambia, 250 
Zaslavskaya, Tatyana, 189 
Zborow’ski, Mark, 133 
Zhdanov, Yuri, 140 
Zhivkov, Todor, 69 

ROBERT Conquest was born in Great Malvern, England, in 
1917, the son of an American father and a British mother. He was 
educated at Winchester College and the Universities of Grenoble 
and Oxford, receiving from the latter his M.A. in politics, philoso¬ 
phy, and economics and his D.Litt. in history. He served in the 
Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry 1939—46, the U.K. Foreign 
Service 1946—56, and then various appointments in academia and 
journalism, including literary editor of the London Spectator ; posts 
at the London School of Economics, Columbia University, the 
Woodrow Wilson Center, and, at present, the Hoover Institution 
at Stanford University. His books include seven volumes of 
verse—the latest, Demons Dont } was recently published—together 
with fiction, translation, literary criticism, biography, and such 
historical works as The Great Terror and The Harvest of Sorrow. He is 
married to Elizabeth, daughter of the late Colonel Richard D. 
Neece, USAF, and has two sons by a previous marriage.